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Vatican Issues Statement on Ecumenical Council Declaration on Jews

Obviously perturbed over a report published this weekend in the United States that the Vatican draft of a declaration on the attitude of the Catholic Church toward the Jews–to be adopted at the forthcoming session of the Ecumenical in September–has been drastically watered down, and that the part in the drafted declaration absolving Jews of the responsibility for the Crucifixion of Jesus has been deleted, the Vatican issued a statement yesterday which reads:

“Referring to certain information published in the press concerning the project of the Declaration de Judaeis (Declaration on the Jews), the Secretariat for Christian Unity specifies that the text of this declaration is still under study and has therefore not been sent to the Council Fathers. If modification should have to be made, they would have the purpose to harmonize its terms with the whole of the Council’s doctrinal schemata.”

The statement was issued by the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity of which Augustine Cardinal Bea is the head. The Declaration on the Jews, as drafted under Cardinal Bea’s direction, stated that the Jews as a people could not be held solely responsible for Jesus’ death on the cross, but that the responsibility rested on all “sinful mankind.” The statement issued by Cardinal Bea’s office yesterday leaves open the question of whether the portion on Jewish responsibility in the Crucifixion might be deleted or even undergo a change.

TEXT OF DECLARATION TO BE DISCUSSED ON JUNE 26 BY VATICAN BODY

Competent observers here consider it unthinkable that the part absolving the Jews from deicide should be eliminated from the Declaration, since this would actually nullify the sense and the intent of the document on Catholic-Jewish relations. The text of the Declaration is still to be discussed by the Vatican Coordination Commission for approval prior to being printed and distributed among the 2, 300 prelates who will attend the Ecumenical Council session to be reconvened in September. The Coordination Commission is scheduled to meet on June 26.

The reason for the possible elimination of references to the Crucifixion was reported to be the belief in some Vatican circles that any statement openly favorable to Jews might be misconstrued by Arabs as implying support for Israel. However, it was pointed out here today that the Crucifixion issue is irrelevant to the Moslem religion and can therefore not provoke any opposition on the part of the Arabs. Mention was also made here of the statement made recently by Pope Paul VI to a delegation of the American Jewish Committee in which he indicated that he associated himself with the view expressed in New York by Cardinal Spellman who declared that Jews of today should not be held responsible for the Crucifixion of Jesus.

Cardinal Bea, meanwhile, returned today from a visit to the United States where he was the guest of Cardinal Cushing of Boston. Cardinal Cushing, along with Francis Cardinal Spellman and other American Cardinals, has predicted that the declaration absolving Jews of the responsibility for the Crucifixion would be adopted at the forthcoming session of the Ecumenical Council.

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