See Setback at Vatican for Advocates of Strong Statement on Jews
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See Setback at Vatican for Advocates of Strong Statement on Jews

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A major conflict between liberal and conservative elements in the Roman Catholic hierarchy was expected today to result in a complete redrafting of the proposed declaration on Church relations with the Jews now being considered by the Vatican Ecumenical Council, Some observers expressed concern that the determined efforts of the liberal forces, as represented by the American prelates, in obtaining a declaration completely repudiating the age-old charge of deicide against the Jewish people, past and present, and condemning anti-Semitism, would be offset by the increased strength of the conservative wing, buttressed by strong pressure from the Arab states.

According to reports in Vatican circles today, redrafting of the declaration, until now in the hands of the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity headed by Augustin Cardinal Bea, will be transferred to a mixed commission composed of members of the Secretariat and of the Council’s theological commission in which the conservative wing is strongly represented.

The declaration itself, according to unofficial sources, will no longer be considered as a separate document associated with the schema on ecumenism, but will be incorporated into Chapter III of the schema, “Of the Church, ” (De Ecclesia). When the Jewish declaration was first introduced in the second session of the Council, it was part of the schema on ecumenism, as was the declaration on religious liberty. When the Council failed to act on the declaration at the second session, the decision was made to issue it as a separate document attached to the schema on ecumenism.


Between the second and present meetings of the Council, the draft declaration went through several revisions, the effect of which was to water down the rejection of the deicide charge and to shift the document’s emphasis from absolving the Jews of those ancient charges to the hope for their conversion. American and European prelates headed by Richard Cardinal Cushing called for the return to the original spirit of the declaration. More than 70 amendments offered during the Council debate last month were worked into a new draft by Cardinal Bea’s Secretariat for resubmission to the Council.

A member of the United States panel of bishops expressed the belief today that the statement absolving the Jews of deicide would gain in strength and authority by inclusion in the framework of the most important schema as would inclusion of the Church’s condemnation of persecution. Inclusion of these points in the schema, he said, would emphasize that relations between the Church and the Jews were essentially theological and thus differed from relations between the Church and any other religion.

Critics of the new move argued today that by taking the declaration on the Jews out of the hands of Cardinal Bea’s Secretariat, no provision was made for the maintenance of Church-Jewish relations after the council session, not even in the purely theological field. Critics also expressed concern that a considerably weakened statement might result from the reported shift of responsibility for the declaration from the Secretariat to the theological commission or a mixed commission. No explanation of why the switch was made was offered today beyond that of an attempts to find the proper location for the declaration In the past there had been complaints that the declaration did not properly belong in the ecumenism schema and that leaving it attached to that schema as a separate declaration was not a solution.


The move created something of a commotion in Council circles. The information center of the Latin American bishops reported that 11 cardinals who met last night drafted a memorandum to Pope Paul appealing to him to intervene to secure full respect for the rights of the Council and to permit it to continue its normal work. Among the factors moving the cardinals in this action was their dissatisfaction over the decisions of the coordination commission to transform the declaration on the Jews into a section to be inserted in Chapter It of the schema, De Ecclesia, and to give the task of rewriting the declaration on religious liberty to the mixed commission most of whose members were opposed to it.

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