Ecumenical Council Scheduled to Vote Today on Jews; Doubt Cast
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Ecumenical Council Scheduled to Vote Today on Jews; Doubt Cast

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Doubt was cast today on whether the Ecumenical Council will reach a preliminary vote tomorrow–as scheduled–on the draft document absolving the Jewish people of the charges of decide and condemning anti-Semitism.

The pessimistic mood developed following an exciting session of the Council this morning, at which it was announced that no vote would be taken today on the Declaration of Religious Liberty, which is considered virtually a companion text to the declaration exonerating the Jews of the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus. The Declaration on Religious Liberty recognizes the right of every man to choose his own religion.

Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, chairman of the Council’s presidium, who made the announcement that no vote would be taken today on the religious liberty document, said that the postponement was due to the fact that many prelates had not as yet had sufficient time to study the draft. Liberals in the Council were stunned by that announcement. A floor fight was begun immediately.

Joseph Cardinal Ritter, of St. Louis, and Albert Gregory Cardinal Meyer, of Chicago, immediately started circulating a petition to Pope Paul VI, requesting a reversal of that ruling. In a short time, they had acquired 500 signatures and, with the help of many other bishops, the number of signatures soon grew to 1,000. They worked frantically because the current Council session is definitely scheduled to end Saturday.

Cardinals Ritter and Meyer had been in the forefront of the fight for an improved text on relations with Jews when that subject was debated last September. The confluence of the two drafts–the one on religious liberty and the other on relations with the Jews–was evident among all the liberals in the Council. They not only wanted an immediate vote on the religious document but feared that, in the last-minute rush for adjournment, the “Jewish” document might also be sidetracked.


Officially the document affecting relations with the Jews is still on tomorrow’s agenda for a preliminary vote. Augustin Cardinal Bea, president of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, the principal proponent of the document affecting relations with the Jewish people, is still scheduled to address the Council tomorrow, presumably to stress the fact that the text on relations with non-Christian religions is theological, rather than political in character.

Such emphasis is needed in order to garner the votes of some bishops, notably those from Arab countries, who fear that the absolution of the Jews and the call for condemnation of anti-Semitism might affect adversely the relations between peoples in the Arabic lands and the Catholic Church.

The plan for tomorrow is, first, to hold a preliminary vote on the first three sections of the declaration on non-Christian religions. Those sections do not mention the Jewish people, being comprised only of an introduction and portions dealing with Moslems, Buddhists and other non-Christian faiths. Then there would be a separate vote on Sections Four and Five. Section Four is the part that affects relations with Jews specifically, while Section Five is a call for “universal brotherhood.” The procedure would call for three types of vote–yes, no, or “yes with reservations.”

In the fight for a vote on the religious liberty document today, nothing whatever was said about the draft dealing with relations with Jews. But both texts, it has been pointed out here repeatedly, are considered “fate-linked twins.” “They are linked,” one competent Council observer noted, “not just casually, but historically.”

The same conservative forces which have so far delayed the voting on the religious liberty document–although, in fact, it was distributed a week ago, six or seven days before the text dealing with the Jews was circulated–are feared to be ready to find parliamentary procedures for delay also on the document absolving the Jews. If no vote is taken tomorrow, even preliminarily, the draft dealing with the Jewish people would certainly be pigeonholed until the next session of the Ecumenical Council, which will not be held until 1966.

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