Vatican Declaration Absolves Jews of Deicide; Condemns Anti-semitism

The text of a Catholic Church declaration which unequivocally absolves the Jews of all times–whether in the era of Jesus or in later days–from the ancient charge of deicide was distributed today to the 2,500 prelates attending the third session of the Ecumenical Council at the Vatican. Preliminary voting on the text is due Friday.

The new text is deemed to mark a victory for Augustin Cardinal Bea, president of the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity, and for the other liberal factions of the Council, among whom the American Cardinalate played a major role during earlier debates on the issue.

The document reaffirms the principle that Christianity’s roots and the roots of the founders of the Church, including Jesus, Mary and the Apostles, were based on their Jewishness and on the Old Testament. The declaration is also forthright on the issue of anti-Semitism, and condemns hatred and persecution of Jews “in former times and in our own days.”

The document, entitled “Declaration on Relations of the Catholic Church to Non-Christian Religions,” consists of an introduction, a statement concerning various non-Christian religions, a section dealing with Moslems, and finally a 1,200-word portion dealing with the Jewish people. An official summary distributed by the Vatican gave the vital portions of the text on the Jews as follows:

OFFICIAL SUMMARY OF TEXT SUBMITTED TO ECUMENICAL COUNCIL

“The Council searches into the mystery of the Church. The Church of Christ gratefully acknowledges that, according to God’s fervent desire, the beginning of her faith and her religion were already present among the Patriarchs, Moses and the Prophets. The Church cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament from the people with whom God in His mercy concluded the former Covenant.

“The Church believes that, by His death, Christ reconciled Jews and Gentiles, making both one. The Church keeps in mind what St. Paul says about his kinsmen: ‘Theirs is the Sonship and the glory, the Covenant and the giving of the Law, the worship and the promises. Theirs are the Patriarchs, and of them is the Christ according to the flesh.’ The Son, the Virgin Mary, the Apostles as well as most of the early disciples sprang from the Jewish people.

“Even though a large part of the Jews did not accept the Gospels, they remain dear to God for the sake of the Patriarchs. God’s gifts and call are irrevocable.

“The Church awaits that day, known to God alone, on which ‘all people will address the Lord in a single voice and serve Him shoulder to shoulder.’ This spiritual patrimony, common to Christians and Jews, is very rich. Thus, the Council supports and recommends the mutual knowledge and respect for the truth, above all of Biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogue.

“The Church, in her rejection of any injustice, is mindful of this common patrimony between Christians and Jews; Thus, the Council deplores and condemns the hatred and persecution of Jews, whether they arose in former times or in our own day. Nothing in the catechetical work of preaching should teach anything that could give rise to hatred or contempt for Jews in the hearts of Christians.

“The Jewish people should never be presented as one rejected, cursed or guilty of deicide. What happened to Christ in His passion cannot be attributed to the whole people then alive, much less to those of today. Besides, the Church held and holds that Christ underwent His passion in death freely because of the sins of all men and out of infinite love. Christian preaching proclaims the Cross of Christ as the sign of God’s all-embracing love and as the fountain from which every grace flows.”

NEW TEXT IS CONSIDERED MUCH STRONGER THAN PREVIOUS DRAFTS

In general, it was pointed out here, the new text is not only much stronger than the second draft circulated among the conciliary fathers last summer, but even smoother than the first version-presented by Cardinal Bea at the Council’s first session–but

The second draft, circulated last summer, had been interpreted by many Jews, and by non-Jews as well, as calling upon the Jews to convert to Christianity. This attitude is avoided in the text circulated today. Instead, it seems to point cut that the hope of reunion between Christians and Jews is implicit in the Jewish faith itself.

At the daily press panel conducted by the American bishops, it was pointed out today that the order of the sections of this declaration–putting the non-Christians and especially the Moslems first, before the Jewish issue–is one of method only, and had been proposed during the debates last September.

After the debate on Friday, it is still possible that, whatever amendments or reservations may be made from the floor, could be coordinated with today’s draft, and brought for a final vote before the Council on its closing day, this Saturday. If there should be no such final vote Saturday, the declaration would be held up for final action and subsequent promulgation until 1966.

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