Fourth Vatican Council May Be Held to Complete ‘jewish Issue’
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Fourth Vatican Council May Be Held to Complete ‘jewish Issue’

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Qualified sources reported here today that a fourth session of the Ecumenical Council may be necessary to deal with the much-debated declaration on Catholic-Jewish relations. That possibility developed after an evaluation of the procedures through which the draft must pass before the 2,500 prelates attending the Council will have the opportunity to vote on it.

The issue was linked with the determination of the progressive Council fathers to obtain a definitive declaration absolving Jews, past and present, of the ancient charge of deicide in the crucifixion of Jesus, and a condemnation of Christian-motivated anti-Semitism; Conservative prelates have sought to water down that and other stands clearly favored by a majority of the prelates.

It was reported today that Augustin Cardinal Bea, president of the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity, which sponsored the initial strong declaration on Jews, was not seriously opposed to having the draft inserted into the schema “De Ecclesia.” Such a shift was one of the points of contention which led a group of cardinals to make an unprecedented appeal last Sunday to Pope Paul, to intervene against the conservative bishops. However, Cardinal Bea insists that the final elaboration of the draft, prior to the vote, be left with his secretariat.


Cardinal Bea’s stand received support from Cardinal Doepfner of Munich, one of the council’s four moderators, who declared tonight at a press conference that the final elaboration on the declaration on the Jews, as well as on religious freedom, remained in the competence of the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Cardinal Doepfner also said that he could say nothing at the present time about the placement of the declaration on Jews among the Council documents. This was understood to mean that he did not exclude the possibility it would be inserted in the “De Ecclesia” schema.

If that is the final determination, the sources said, voting procedures would be in complete uncertainty. The “De Ecclesia” schema has already been approved in Council voting. Its Theological Commission is preparing the definitive text for final voting by a procedure of screening several thousand reservations and observations made by the Council fathers in the course of debate. Such final voting could not be expected during the present third session, and possibly not until well into a fourth session.

The possibility of a fourth session was strengthened also by a request by Archbishop Gomes of Brazil, who spoke today on another Council draft and asked that voting be postponed until a fourth session.

Most observers at the Council indicated that an early vote on the declaration on the Jews would be the best way to assure a strong document.

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