Cardinal Bea Outlines Revised Text of Ecumenical Decree on Jews
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Cardinal Bea Outlines Revised Text of Ecumenical Decree on Jews

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Augustin Cardinal Bea, chairman of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Christian Unity, and architect of the proposed Ecumenical Council decree on the improvement of Catholic-Jewish relations, today outlined the revised text of that decree to be placed before the Council’s next session, in September. He stressed that the late Pope John XXIII had personally endorsed his major views on the subject. The cardinal’s statement appeared in today’s issue of Civita Cattolica, the influential Jesuit periodical.

Rejecting what he called the “false accusations which are usually pronounced against the Jewish people” in connection with the crucifixion of Jesus, the Cardinal stated: “It is not just to call it (the Jewish people) a deicide people and therefore cursed by God. In fact, even in Christ’s time, the whole people did not cooperate in His condemnation. The less so is it permitted today to consider those of the Jewish faith responsible.”

From this consideration, continued the prelate, “the document deduces the warning to avoid all that may cause contempt and provoke hatred against them in religious teaching, in sermons, in catechism and, in particular, in explaining Christ’s life and passion and the doctrine of His redeeming death, and in contact with Jews.”


The second part of the proposed decree, Cardinal Bea stated, lists “all the good that the Church received from God through the Jewish people, and everything that is common to both religions is mentioned. The Church acknowledges with gratefulness that her own predeterminism is rooted in the predeterminism of the Jewish patriarchs and prophets and in the Divine revelation given to them. The Church is a continuation of that chosen people with whom God had concluded an old covenant and that gave birth to Christ and His Virgin mother and His Apostles.

“Enumerating all these facts, the text before the Council recommends to Catholics that they work together with adherents of the Jewish faith for ever-improving, mutual esteem and knowledge, particularly by theological studies and fraternal conversation,” Cardinal Bea stated. “The Council which censures strongly any injustice wherever committed, condemns every hatred and all persecutions in the past and in our own times against the Jews.

“To evaluate correctly, the high importance of the document proposed to the Council,” the prelate continued, “the Council must consider the long, sad history of Christian-Jewish relations and, most of all, the tragic fruits of anti-Semitism, so laden with consequences in which we assisted with terror not longer than two decades ago.

“This is not to say that anti-Semitism–that of the recent decades less so–was born exclusively or even mainly of Christian sources. It is known what preponderant weight social, racial, political and economic factors have had. However, we can rightly ask whether Christians have always and fully been inspired in their attitude by their faith, and whether to fight anti-Semitism they have made correct use of the means put at their disposal by their faith. The unhappy relations between Christians and Jews had begun already in the first decade of the Church.


“It is and will remain to the great credit of Pope John to have understood this central problem and its importance. He ordered the elimination of offending expressions in the Good Friday liturgy. He personally ordered the preparation of the schema for the Council. When I handed him the opinion regarding the document, I received in a few days a precious, hand-written note saying: ‘We read with attention Cardinal Bea’s report. We share perfectly his opinion on the seriousness and responsibility of our interest.’ It is mainly by the merit of John XXIII that the schema could be proposed to the Council.

“Some rumors wanted to attribute minor importance to it. This is inexact. Its exact place depends upon the judgment of its major or minor connection with ecumenism. But its importance is in its deep, religious content and in the fact that it is and always remains a solemn document of the Council.”

Cardinal Bea then touched on the fact that the last session of the Council took no decision on the schema dealing with Christian-Jewish relations. He reiterated what he has often said–that failure to vote on the document was due only to lack of time. “On the other hand,” he declared, “the delay had doubtless advantages. It gave the Council Fathers time for quiet reflection and study.

“Now that they have reflected in front of God and in their consciences about the proposed text, it would be inconvenient for me to make any declaration regarding the decision to take. That would be a sign of little confidence in them. Therefore, it is sufficient to have illustrated and explained the document on the Jews in its content and its inspiration, as an expression of that spirit that, today, powerfully breathes in the Church and in the world,” Cardinal Bea concluded.

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