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Leaders Analyze Vatican Stand on Jews, Issue Joint Statement

Leaders of major national and international Jewish organizations today issued a joint “Statement to the Jewish Community,” expressing the hope that the Ecumenical Council, now in session in Rome, would act to “contribute to the effective elimination of anti-Semitism and all sources of bigotry and prejudice” for a “better understanding among all peoples.”

The joint statement resulted from a series of consultations among the Jewish leaders, who analyzed the debate in the Ecumenical Council at the Vatican on proposals for a declaration on relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people. During the Vatican debate, many of the 2,500 prelates attending the session, led by a group of American cardinals and bishops, strongly urged a draft which would absolve all Jews, past and present, of the charge of deicide; would condemn anti-Semitism; and eliminate a statement seeking conversion of Jews to Christianity. The Council is expected to act before the end of October on the question.

The Jewish leaders here declared that, historically, Jews “have been the bearers of a distinctive religious commitment” and that “no matter how great the pressures, no sacrifice has been too great for us to maintain our unique religious character.”

“A concern with the common destiny of all men is deeply rooted in our spiritual heritage,” the joint statement declared. “We therefore note with satisfaction the development of increasingly harmonious relationships among the great faiths that have engendered common positions and actions on vital humanitarian issues.”

The statement added that, while “the ever increasing contact between peoples in the modern world has created new dimensions in human relations which Jews have welcomed and in which they have fully participated,” the Jew now, no less than in the past” “remains steadfast in his historic commitment, determined to preserve his faith and heritage.”

ESCHEW PROPOSALS ON RELIGIOUS DOCTRINES; JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS LISTED

The joint statement noted that the Ecumenical Council was “a convocation of the religious leadership of the Catholic Church, concerned with the problem of Christian unity and the definition of Catholic religious doctrine” and it would therefore “be improper for the Jewish community, which is not a part of Christianity or its Ecumenical movement, to offer suggestions concerning religious doctrine to this Council.”

“However, the Jewish leaders continued, “it is our hope that this Council will further harmonious relationships among the religions of the world in their efforts to seek solutions to the problems of mankind. All men of good will are encouraged by the concern of this Council with the fact that certain teachings of the Church have been used at times as a source of anti-Semitism. It is to be hoped that the final determination of the Council will contribute to the effective elimination of anti-Semitism and all sources of bigotry and prejudice and will lead to better understanding among all peoples.”

The Jewish organizations participating in the deliberations which led to the joint statement under the chairmanship of Label A. Katz, president of B’nai B’rith, were: the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith, Canadian Jewish Congress, Jewish Labor Committee, National Community Relations Advisory Council, Rabbinical Assembly of America, Rabbinical Council of America, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, United Synagogue of America, World Jewish Congress, Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the Jewish War Veterans of the United States.

The leaders said that Jewish organizations on five continents, affiliated with the World Conference of Jewish Organizations which initiated the consultations in New York, would publish the same statement simultaneously in their communities.

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