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Cardinal Bea Tells Prelates Jews Could Not Be Charged with Deicide

With the Ecumenical Council preparing to take final action on its draft declaration absolving Jews from the charge that they crucified Jesus, Augustin Cardinal Bea, head of the Secretariat at the Vatican which prepared the declaration, came out yesterday before a group of prelates and strongly reiterated the view that the Jewish people could not be charged with deicide. The text of his statement was made public today by the Vatican.

Cardinal Bea made his statement addressing a conference given to the Brazilian Episcopate. The conference was attended also by many other bishops and concillary experts. The press was not represented at the gathering. The text issued this morning makes it clear that the Cardinal flatly rejected the position of those prelates who claim that the Christian doctrine holds Jews responsible for the crucifixion.

The Cardinal presented to the prelates an exhaustive examination of texts from the New Testament and held that one could not speak of the guilt of the Jewish people of the “crime of deicide” in the death of Jesus. He stressed that it was wrong even to accuse the leaders of the Jewish people of that time of the crucifixion “because it can be doubted that they understood sufficiently the human divine nature of Jesus.”

Cardinal Bea declared that when the New Testament speaks of the responsibility for the crucifixion, it refers to the Sanherdin or “in a certain way” to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. But, the Cardinal stressed, such a reproach is never expressed against Jewish inhabitants of other towns, whether inside or outside of Palestine. He emphasized that “the punishments threatened or prophesied by Jesus do not signify that God rejected the Jewish people and that, on the contrary, God continues not only his fidelity to the election of the Children of the Covenant but also to offer his gifts.” The Cardinal added that God sent his preachers first to the sons of Israel.

“Not even the great judgment on Jerusalem proves a collective guilt of the Jewish people for the crucifixion, the less so can the Jewish people be considered deicide or reprobate,” Cardinal Bea told the conference.

The Cardinal began his statement with the proposal that the point of departure for understanding the Catholic Church’s stand on the issue was already contained in the Councilary Constitution promulgated at the end of the third session. In that Constitution, he pointed out, it was solemnly confirmed that the Church had been conceived since the beginning of the world and prepared by the history of the people of Israel and by the Old Covenant and realized “by the new covenant in Christ.”

He conceded that many Christians did not take into sufficient consideration these “obviously special links” between Jews and Christians. He added that if “we look at history — without intending to accuse anybody — we find that so many times Christians were blinded to the point of pretending to be entitled — arbitrarily — to avenging Jesus by submitting members of that people to discriminations and persecutions and by calling the Jewish people reprobate and cursed by God.”

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