ROME (Oct. 13)
Pope Paul VI responded today to an appeal by a group of liberal cardinals attending the Ecumenical Council, and overruled a group of conservative prelates and Vatican officials who reportedly have been striving to dilute a draft declaration on Catholic-Jewish relations and freedom of conscience.
An official source said that the Pope acted after 15 prominent cardinals asked him to intervene to prevent the conservative prelates from "sabotaging" the desires of the Council majority on controversial key issues. American, European and Latin American cardinals made their appeal to the Pope on Sunday night, after they met to review what they called "the gravest crisis" of the entire Council.
They expressed fears that the Vatican Coordinating Commission and the Council presidency, staffed mainly by conservative church administrators from the Vatican Curia, were determined to water down Council actions already taken on the key issues. The Curia is the central administration of the Catholic Church.
The strategy of the conservative foes of the major trend among the 2,500 prelates at the Ecumenical Council was geared to removal of the two declarations from the Secretariat for the promotion of Christian Unity, headed by Agustin Cardinal Bea, and their placement in a mixed group of the Secretariat and a Doctrinal Commission, in which the conservative wing of the church is strongly represented.
Under the conservative strategy, the declaration on the Jews would no longer be considered a separate document associated with the schema on ecumenism, but would be incorporated into a chapter of the schema "On the Church. " This, it was reported, would involve a "drastic" alteration of the draft, to conform to the more theological and doctrinal tone of that schema.
PONTIFF REASSURES PRELATES; U.S. BISHOPS AMONG LEADERS
The exact content of the draft declaration on Jews, at the present stage, has not been disclosed. The original draft, prepared by Cardinal Bea’s secretariat, absolved all Jews, past and present, of responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus, called on Catholics to purge themselves of anti-Semitism stemming from the charge, and strongly condemned all anti-Semitic manifestations; It was introduced last December at the second session of the Council, but not acted on.
Before the third session opened, last September 14, word leaked out that the draft had been changed so that the absolution from the charge of deicide applied only to the Jews of the present. The condemnation of anti-Semitism was dropped, and language was inserted which was widely interpreted by Jewish theologians as a bid to Jews to convert to Christianity.
In two days of debate on the declaration, on September 28 and 29, the liberal Cardinals, with American prelates in the lead, demanded a restoration of the original language. At the close of the debate, Cardinal Bea’s Secretariat began work on amendments to achieve that objective. Prior to the disclosure that the work of preparing a new draft on Jews had been taken from the Cardinal Bea secretariat, it had been assumed that a stronger draft would be presented to the Council for action.
The Pope reportedly gave reassurances to the liberal prelates in a series of audiences. Among those he met at those sessions were Cardinal Bea, Cardinal Bernard Jan Alfrink of Utrecht, Holland; and Josef Cardinal Frings of Cologne.
Others who joined in the appeal to the Pope were Joseph Cardinal Elmer Ritter of St. Louis, and Albert Cardinal Mayer of Chicago. The two American prelates, along with Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston, took a leading role in the two day debate on the declaration, appealing urgently for its strengthening.
Other cardinals asking the Pope’s intervention were Cardinals Raul Silva Henriques of Chile, Julius Dopfner of Munich, Franzizkus Konig of Vienna, Achille Lienart of Lille, Joseph Lefebvre of Bourges, Giaocomo Lercaro of Bologna, and Leo Josepf Suenens of Brussels.