Chief Rabbi of Italy Criticizes Vatican Draft in Rosh Hashanah Sermon

Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff declared in his Rosh Hashanah sermon that he regretted that the new version of the Vatican draft on Catholic-Jewish relations seemed to show a retreat from the positions in the first declaration. Jewish groups have charged that the new version, to be submitted to the third Ecumenical Council session opening next Monday, contains an appeal to Jews to convert to Catholicism, a charge denied last week by a Vatican spokesman.

A festive crowd which filled the Rome synagogue to hear Rabbi Toaff included Catholic priests and representatives of the authorities, as in former years. After the services, a group calling themselves Israeli Catholics distributed outside the synagogue gates missionary booklets in Italian and Hebrew printed in Britain, The distribution irritated the worshipers and sparked heated arguments between them and the distributors.

Judge Sergio Piperno, president of the Union of Jewish Communities of Italy, also touched upon the Jewish issue to be discussed by the Ecumenical Council. In his Rosh Hashanah message, broadcast over the Italian radio network, he said: “Italian Jews trust that the Ecumenical Council will declare as unfounded the centuries-old accusations (of deicide) which have cost the Jewish people so much blood and tears.”

Referring to the fact that Italy is now observing the 20th anniversary of resistance to Nazism and Fascism, Judge Piperno said that the resistance movement “imposes upon the survivors the duty to realize the complete equality of religious minorities, and to enact laws against genocide, so that Italy may not become a haven for the perpetrators of the most horrendous crime against humanity.”

Judge Piperno also touched upon the situation of the Jews in the Soviet Union by noting that, at this season of the High Holy Days, “Italian Jews also turn their thoughts to their brethren in less hospitable countries, where they are not allowed to live in accordance with the traditions of their history and their religion. ” The Jewish leader concluded his Rosh Hashanah message with greetings to the people of Israel, expressing his “fervent wish for progress and peace.”

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