ROME (Nov. 22)
Worldwide satisfaction with the statement of the Ecumenical Council this weekend, absolving the Jews of all times–whether in the era of Jesus or in later days–of the ancient charge of deicide, and condemning anti-Semitism, found its echo here today following the official closing by Pope Paul VI yesterday of the third session of the Council. (An official summary of the text of the declaration was published in the JTA Daily News Bulletin of November 19.)
The final vote on the document exonerating the Jewish people from guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus by the Romans will be taken when the Ecumenical Council reconvenes at the end of next year, or early in 1966. The preliminary vote on the declaration taken Friday, was 1,651 in favor, 242 in favor but with reservations, 99 against, and four abstentions. The large vote in favor leaves no doubt that the declaration will be adopted at the final voting during the next session.
Those prelates who favored the document conditionally have now until next January to file whatever slight modifications of the text they might seek. But it was seen here as highly significant that those modifications will be studied by the very body which was responsible in the first place for the drafting of a strong text favoring improved relations with the Jewish people, as envisaged by the late Pope John XXIII and entrusted to the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity, headed by liberal Augustin Cardinal Bea.
Cardinal Bea’s secretariat will prepare a further text which is to be voted at a second reading of the document at the next session of the Council, in 1966. Meanwhile, however, the Church is on record of having adopted an official Ecumenical Council document which, in the opinion of most observers, is stronger and more balanced than the original draft presented by Cardinal Bea in December of 1962. That draft was never debated.
When the declaration is finally approved, it will become an appendix to the schema entitled “De Ecclesia,” which deals with purely theological matters. Thus, it was pointed cut here, the declaration dealing with relations with the Jewish people will be firmly grounded on a theological basis, rather than linked with any possible political interpretation. Cardinal Bea himself underscored the theological character of the document when he presented it for balloting at Friday’s session.
CARDINAL BEA, INITIATOR OF THE DOCUMENT ON JEWS, HAILED BY PRELATES
Presenting the document on the Jewish issue, Cardinal Bea told the prelates: “We are dealing here with God’s plan of salvation, with recognizing His benefits, with condemnation of past hatred and injuries, and with avoiding the same in the future.” He was seen as alluding clearly to the sufferings of the Jewish people through the ages, due to the charge that it was the Jews who killed Christ, when he continued:
“Thus the Church and also the Council must carry out its mission and may not remain silent. In judging the necessity of this declaration, it must be remembered that it is of great importance that the Church, the Christian world and public opinion should have its attention called to the problems set forth in this declaration.”
Obviously expressing a hope that, with this declaration adopted, anti-Semitism and other hatreds of that type would be banned by the Church, Cardinal Bea said: “The importance and extreme value of this declaration is in the fruits to be hoped for. For the first time in conciliatory history, principles dealing with non-Christians are set forth in solemn form, and the dialogue of the Church with the 1,000,000,000 non-Christians has thus begun.” The billion peoples to which Bea referred included Moslems, Buddhists and other non-Christians also mentioned in the declaration.
Applause greeted Cardinal Bea when he concluded his presentation. He was hailed by the vast majority of the prelates, not only as the initiator of the document but also as the champion of a cause for the development of firmer, friendlier relations between all Christians and the Jewish people.
When the final vote on the declaration as a whole was tabulated, it was seen that the document had received more than the necessary two-thirds of the total of 1,996 votes cast. The victory for Bea, and for the United States and other American bishops who led in the fight for a liberal document on relations with the Jews, was clear and unambiguous.