Support for Document on Jews Growing in Ecumenical Council Ranks
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Support for Document on Jews Growing in Ecumenical Council Ranks

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Fresh expressions of support for the proposed adoption by the Ecumenical Council of a statement rejecting Jewish responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ were heard yesterday as the Council Fathers continued debate. The Council postponed last week action on adoption of the proposal and gave no indication as to when and in what form action would be taken.

One of the developments yesterday was a press conference sponsored by the United States Bishops Panel of Msgr. John Oesterreicher, an American priest who is consultant to the Secretariat for Christian Unity, which prepared the statement on Jewish-Catholic relations. The statement also warns Catholics against any anti-Jewish prejudice stemming from the crucifixion.

Msgr. Oesterreicher said that the proper place for Chapter Four, the statement on the Jews, was in the schema on ecumenism because of theological reasons. He said “man’s salvation” and the history of the Jewish people were world history and also were the roots of the Church which was in fact, “a church of the Jews given to the Gentiles.”


While saying that the goal was “final reconciliation” of Christianity with the synagogue, he stressed that the schema on ecumenism excluded efforts at conversion of Jews. He added that “one fruit of the planned decree should be a lessening of tensions between Catholics and Jews and removal of age-old misunderstandings” through the projected disavowal of the interpretation of the Gospels which sows contempt for Jews.

He reaffirmed that the decree contained a condemnation of anti-Semitism in that it “not only rejects outbursts of hatred and persecutions to which Jews have been subjected but it also says that the Church deplores them with a mother’s heart. This is stronger than mere censure,” he added, “because it implies that the Church itself is affected by abuse and oppression of the Jews.”

Msgr. Oesterreicher said that the decree, together with the “masterful address” of Augustin Cardinal Bea before the Council on November 18 had “exploded the primitive notion” of collective guilt of the Jews in the crucifixion. Cardinal Bea, president of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, strongly criticized Bishops who opposed adoption of the chapter on the Jews.

Another development was an address by Prof. Kristen Skydsgaard of Copenhagen, one of the official Protestant observers at the Council, in which he said that “whichever position one takes toward the question of where to locate the Chapter on the Catholic attitude toward Jews, it is clear that never has it been so absolutely necessary to pronounce this word as at present. No criticism from the outside should impede the Church from expressing now a clear condemnation of anti-Semitism.”


Also noted and commented on was an article by Mazimos Fourth Saigh, the Patriarch of Antioch, in Beirut newspapers, which was disseminated here, in which the Patriarch affirmed his belief that the decree on the Jews was “completely non-political” in its purpose and character, tending only to outlaw religious hatred and racist campaigns in the “Christian Occident” by theoretical and practical means.

Archbishop Pietro Sfair of the Antiochan Masonite Rite called in a speech for inclusion of the Islamic religion in Chapter Four but no other religions. He said he proposed this because of the Islamic affinities with Christianity and Judaism and also because such an action might alleviate antagonisms in the Middle East and promote peace there.

The Archbishop Hyacinth Thiandoum of Dakar, Senegal, suggested in debate today an African compromise on the differences between the Bishops who wanted to speak on Jews only and those who wished to include all non-Christian religions.

He proposed that the agenda be broadened to include the 40,000,000 adherents of Islamism in Africa, asserting that they alone traditionally were considered Abraham’s children among non-Jews. He added that Islamism also embraces parts of both the Old and the New Testaments. He also proposed a solemn declaration on Judaism and Islamism outside the Schema on Ecumenism.

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