Vatican Draft Would Stress Conversion of Jews to Catholicism
Menu JTA Search

Vatican Draft Would Stress Conversion of Jews to Catholicism

Download PDF for this date

A draft declaration on the Catholic Church’s relations with Jews, prepared for the next session of the Ecumenical Council, was revealed here today as stressing the objective of converting the Jews to Catholicism.

The draft, of undoubted authenticity, was distributed a month ago to the Council fathers who will attend the third session of the Ecumenical Council, convening in Rome Sept. 14. A study of the text confirmed earlier information to the effect that clear absolution of the Jewish people of the crime of deicide–advocated at the Council’s second session by the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity, under Augustin Cardinal Bea–has been seriously watered down.

Concern over the new version now ready for discussion by the Ecumenical Council was expressed in Jewish circles today. Morris B. Abram, president of the American Jewish Committee, issued a statement in which he said his organization “read with considerable anxiety what purports to be a confidential version of the Catholic Church’s declaration on Catholic-Jewish relations.”


The clause on conversion, as quoted in the unofficial translation from the original Latin, reads: “It is also worth remembering that the union of the Jewish people with the Church is a part of the Christian hope. Accordingly, and following the teachings of Apostle Paul, the Church expects in unshakable faith and with ardent desire the entrance of that people (the Jews) into the fullness of the people of God established by Christ.”

The text of the new version continues: “Everyone should be careful, therefore, not to expose the Jewish people as a rejected nation, be it in Catechitical tuition, in preaching of God’s Word, or in worldly conversation, nor should anything else be said or done which may alienate the minds of men from the Jews. “

The sole reference to the Jews and Crucifixion is in the following statement: “Equally, all should be on their guard not to impute to the Jews of our time that which was perpetrated in the Passion of Christ. ” Unofficial information on the original draft indicated that the absolution of the Jews from the crime of deicide was much more specific.

The new version reiterates the earlier emphasis on the historic ties between Jews and Christians, referring again to all Christians as being “sons of Abraham by faith.” It then proceeds to a stern denunciation of anti-Semitism with the following statement:

“Since such is the inheritance accepted by Christians from the Jews, this Holy Council is resolved expressly to further and to recommend reciprocal understanding and appreciation, to be obtained by theological study and fraternal discussion, and beyond that, inasmuch as it severely disapproves of any wrong inflicted upon men wheresoever, it equally deplores and condemns hatred and maltreatment of Jews. “


Mr. Abram’s statement on behalf of the American Jewish Committee, after expressing “anxiety” over the “purported” version of the Vatican’s draft declaration, continued: “Since we are aware of several versions of such a declaration, we are understandably uncertain as to the amount of credence this version merits. Nonetheless, some of the contents of this document are disturbing, indeed, confirming as they do misgivings we have come to have, We are concerned particularly that this version intermingles with its plea for mutual understanding among religious groups a hope for the conversion of the Jewish people.

“Though the Jewish and Christian religions differ strongly on matters of proselytizing, Jews do understand that belief in the ultimate truth of Christianity leads to desires to win others to share that faith. In other contexts, an appeal for conversion is understandable, but not where it is coupled with a statement which attempts to clarify and re-examine Catholic views toward Jews.

“We would be forced inevitably to question a reassessment leading to a new and long-overdue regard for Judaism. for we are forced to ask if this consideration is dependent on the expectancy of conversion. Such an appeal must be rejected by Jews; for any declaration, no matter how well intended, whose effect would mean the dissolution of the Jewish people as such, and the elimination of Judaism as a religion, will be received with resentment by Jews throughout the world.

“Along with our misgivings on the point of conversion in this document, we equally are troubled by its inclusion of a weakened and ambiguous condemnation of the deicide canard of collective Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus.

“In recent years we have been heartened by the new spirit permeating many faiths, notably their sensitivity to the effect that their attitudes may create on members of other faiths. If this document is indeed an authentic one, it is most regrettable indeed that it is so lacking in the spirit and content that permeated Chapter 4 of the Schema on Ecumenism proposed at the second session of the Council.”

Will Maslow, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, issued the following statement: “We do not believe that the moment is propitious for hasty and off-the-cuff evaluations of a document as important and significant as a statement by the Catholic Church on its attitude toward the Jewish people. For this reason, we are withholding comment on what purports to be a draft version now under consideration by Church authorities until we have had ample time for careful study of an authenticated text. At that time, we expect to join with other national and international Jewish organizations in a considered statement on the draft document.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund