Revised Vatican Text Says Jews Should Not Be Blamed for Jesus’ Death

The amended text fo the draft on the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church toward the Jewish people–scheduled to be taken up for final voting at the present session of the Ecumenical Council–was distributed today among members of the Council and newsmen were given official summaries of the revised document.

Although the controversial word “deicide” seems to be eliminated from the text, the document declares that “Christ’s passion” should not be imputed either to Jews living at the time when Jesus was crucified or to Jews of our time. It also specifically condemns anti-Semitism. It emphasizes that the Jewish people “cannot be presented as condemned or cursed by God.” A footnote to the revised text explains that such terms as “deicide” and “Christ-killer” are odious words.

The part exonerating the Jews from the deicide charge reads: “Although the authorities of the Jews with their followers solicited the death of Christ, what happened in His Passion cannot be imputed either to all the Jews, without distinction, then alive or to the Jews living in our time. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews cannot be presented as condemned or cursed by God, as though this followed from Sacred Scriptures.” (The previous text said that the Jewish people “should never be presented as one rejected, cursed, or guilty of deicide.”)

“Consequently,” the amended text adds, “all should take care that neither in religious teaching nor in the preaching of God’s word, anything be taught that is not in harmony with the Gospel truth and the spirit of Christ.”

In condemning anti-Semitism, the amended text says that the Catholic Church “condemns all persecutions against any group of men, and remains mindful of the common patrimony with the Jews and so deplores the hatred, persecution, and manifestations of anti-Semitism which have erupted at any time and by whatever group of people against the Jews.” This, the text stresses, is “not for political reasons but by the force of religious evangelical love.”

The changes in the text are still subject to approval by two-thirds of the 2,200 Council Fathers. Otherwise the wording reverts to the text approved last year. In principle, the members of the Ecumenical Council have authority to reject any amendment, in which case the text of last year would stand. In practice, however, the application of the principle is not simple. Votes on the amendments will be held when the amended draft comes before the prelates for a final vote, after the return of Pope Paul VI from his visit to the United Nations next week.

Pope Paul VI, speaking to a general audience yesterday, declared that the Catholic concept of the “People of God” stresses its origin in the Old Testament. His comments were similar in vein to those included in a statement by Augustin Cardinal Bea, head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity, on Tuesday to the Brazilian Episcopate and Councillary experts on the attitude of the Church toward Jews.

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