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Concern over Fate of Jewish Decree at Ecumenical Council Reported

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“Considerable concern and anxiety” of the fate of the Jewish decree scheduled to come before the forthcoming session of the Ecumenical Council–which opens on September 14 at the Vatican–is felt in the United States, a conference of Catholic teaching nuns held at Marquette University here was told by Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, national director of the Interreligious Affairs Department of the American Jewish Committee.

Addressing the conference, Rabbi Tanenbaum said that such concern is especially expressed at Christian-Jewish meetings in this country dealing with Catholic-Jewish relations. “While it is reassuring to know that the Jewish declaration is definitely scheduled on the agenda of the third session,” he said, “reports that the content and language of the decree have been significantly watered down here have left a terribly negative reaction, as much in American Christian quarters as in Jewish.

“Other reports that the decree contains a reference to the falsity of the concept of collective Jewish guilt for the murder of Jesus have been welcomed, but this is countervailed by the reported omission in the present version of the apparent strong condemnation of the decide charge contained in the text introduced in the second session,” the American Jewish Committee official stated.

“If this is true,” Rabbi Tanenbaum added, “no one should be surprised it major segments of the Jewish community turns its back on this entire enterprise, terming this widely publicized, universally hailed effort to rectify the wrong of centuries as another failure of conscience of the Western world with regard to the Jews.”

GROWING SCEPTICISM AMONG JEWS STRESSED; SHELVING OF DECREE FEARED

The American Jewish Committee official stressed that “the many American Bishops who have in the most fraternal ways sought to reassure Jewish leaders of their personal support of the Jewish decree in its strongest form, and who have expressed publicly and privately their optimism over the passage of the decree, need to be made aware of a growing skepticism among Jews.”

From the newspaper reports and from other informed sources, he said, it appears that the Ecumenical Council “parliamentary” and voting procedure announced several weeks ago by the Council secretariat is such as to reduce the possibilities for open floor discussion of this, as well as other decrees, to a bare minimum.

“Given the experience of the closing days of the second session with regard to the Jewish decree which was introduced but withheld from a vote, many Jews are openly predicting a similar fate at the third session–the decree will be introduced, those opposed to it will find technical ways to postpone, to filibuster, and finally to shelve the decree into limbo,” Rabbi Tanenbaum told the Conference of the Catholic Nuns.

“Those who oppose the decree, and especially those who are isolated from the realities of the non-Latin Hispanic world, do not begin to comprehend what severe damage such action would do to intergroup and interreligious solidarity, which is the foundation-stone of American democracy and the Western Alliance,” he emphasized. “It will take literally generations of effort to overcome the divisive fallout in religious, cultural, social, and political relations that would inevitably ensue should the Jewish decree, and with it, the religious liberty decree, die at the third session,” he pointed out.

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