ROME (Sep. 30)
The Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity began work today on amendments to strengthen the declaration on Catholic-Jewish relations, a press panel sponsored by American bishops here revealed.
The Secretariat will work with a list of 70 amendments submitted prior to the opening of the current, third session of the Ecumenical Council, plus a large sheaf of related proposals offered to strengthen the declaration in the two days of Council debate on the draft declaration, Monday and yesterday.
The Secretariat, under the chairmanship of Augustin Cardinal Bea, prepared and submitted to the second Council session, last week, a version which absolved Jews, past and present, of blame for the Crucifixion of Jesus. It also strongly condemned anti-Semitism stemming from the deicide change. That draft was not voted on at that session. The version was revised by the Coordinating Commission of the Vatican in the interval between the second and third Council sessions, and disclosure of the changes evoked widespread criticism, not only among Jews but also among Catholic clergy and laymen.
U.S.CARDINALS FOCUS ON NEED FOR CHANGES AFTER PLEA BY BEA
The revised draft was criticized for diluting the absolution clause, referring only to Jews of the present; for dropping the word “deicide” and for a statement of the traditional Christian hope for “reunion” of Jews with Christianity. Many Jewish theologians interpreted that clause as a bid to Jews to convert. Cardinal Bea, in introducing the revised text, made it plain he was dissatisfied with the changes, citing them in detail and urging reinstatement of the original stronger version.
The majority of the American bishops, led by Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston, Albert Gregory Cardinal Meyer of Chicago, and Joseph Elmer Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis, spoke urgently and eloquently of the need to revise the draft to make it acceptable “to our Jewish brothers. ” The theme was heard repeatedly that, against the background of the use of Christian anti-Semitism to persecute Jews over the centuries, a strong statement was long overdue.
The American bishops were supported by key members of the Secretariat, including Archbishop John Carmel Heenan, the Primate of England, and Archbishop Franjo Seper of Zagreb, Yugoslavia. They pleaded for elimination of any language which might possibly be regarded by Jews as a bid for conversion, stressing the need for Catholic to understand Jewish sensitivity on that point.
The amendments to be prepared by the Secretariat will be submitted as soon as possible to the Council for action. A spokesman for the Secretariat indicated that the Secretariat will submit a declaration amended on the basis of the “overwhelming opinion” in support of strengthening the declaration. Earlier it had been indicated that it would be several weeks before the Council would take up the draft.