Ecumenical Council Defers Further Debate on Decree Relating to Jews

The Ecumenical Council approved today the first three chapters of a document on Christian unity, but postponed for later consideration a chapter on the Jews and another chapter on freedom of religious expression.

The Bishops then decided to cut off further debate on the document as a whole, and pass on to discussion of each separate chapter. There was no indication as to the reasons that led the prelates to postpone action on the draft on Jews which specifically denies Jewish responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ and warns all Catholics against anti-Semitic attitudes based on ancient charges of decide.

While a majority of the Bishops who have spoken on the Jewish draft have endorsed it fully, divisions of opinion have been expressed as to whether it should be incorporated in the general schema on ecumenism, or treated separately. In the debate today, for example, Bishop Florit of Florence, Italy, said Chapter Four, on the Jews, should be part of the schema on the Church because the Jewish religion was at the origin of the Church, and the Church’s history of salvation started with the Old Testament.

A decision which may have a bearing on the ultimate treatment of the chapter on the Jews was announced today, providing for an expansion of each commission dealing with various aspects of church issues before the Council. Under this provision, the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity will have 12 new members. Augustin Cardinal Bea, president of that Secretariat, has been the key witness Vatican figure in preparing the chapter on the Jews and presenting it to the Council fathers.

Bishop Hanvas of Hungary said in the debate today that anti-Semitism was still very strong, and lauded the “Sisters of Notre Dame De Sion” for working for the re-establishment of a “normal situation” in that respect among the people.

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