German Jesuit Sure of Vatican Approval of Document on Jews

Final approval of the Ecumenical Council’s draft declaration on Catholic-Jewish relations has never been seriously endangered since the overwhelming majority vote of provisional approval last November, during the third Council session, a West German Jesuit leader said here today.

Rev. H. Hirschmann, professor of the Jesuit order at Frankfurt University, declared at the German Bishops press panel here today that this was true despite all rumors to the contrary. The provisional vote of approval was 1,691 for, 99 against and four abstentions. The declaration repudiates once and for all the ancient charge that the Jews, past or present, had any responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus. It is part of a document on the Catholic Church’s relations with all non-Christian religions, including the Moslem and Buddhist faiths.

Father Hirschmann explained that any schema adopted by a two-thirds majority is considered as virtually accepted, and cannot be changed thereafter except by a majority vote of the prelates. He added that competent Council commissions can propose only amendments formulated on the basis of proposals contained in positions of Council members who voted “yes, with reservations.” However, Prof. Hirschmann stressed, such proposed amendments can be only alternative formulations to those originally accepted. If such amendments do not receive a majority, the original text remains valid, he stated.

It was known, he said, that, for the sake of clarity and to avoid misunderstanding or misuse, a number of such alternatives were examined and formulated for the draft by the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity, which adopted the initial strongly-worded draft. He declared, however, that these proposals did not change the substance of the text adopted in November, and could not alter the draft in essence.

Prof. Hirschmann noted that fears had been voiced by “one part” of the Church concerning possible reprisals against Catholics in the Middle East, stemming from the sweeping dismissal of deicide charges against the Jewish people. He said there was no reason to minimize such fears, but that it was equally true that the Ecumenical Council could not give “decisive weight to such considerations of expediency.”

Predicting that there would still be “much opposition” at the Council to the declaration before final approval and promulgation, he said that the declaration was important also in its Moslem and Buddhist elements, and that it would most probably remain a separate document and not incorporated in the “Constitution of the Church” schema. This had been proposed during the third session.

NEXT STORY