U.S. Prelates Fight for Full Exoneration of Jews from Deicide Charge

The fourth session of the Ecumenical Council starts its fifth week tomorrow, with the issue of the Vatican declaration on Jews anticipated to come up for final voting on Thursday or Friday.

American prelates were reported here today as making a strong attempt behind the scenes to secure the retention of the text of the draft declaration which was approved by a large majority of the 2,200 cardinals and bishops taking part in the Council’s session. That text exonerated the Jews of all times of the charge of deicide, and said that the Jews should never be presented as a “cursed” people. The new version of the text, which has been presented to this session, eliminated the word “deicide.” The new version also has another important change. It merely “deplores” anti-Semitism, while the version of last year said that the Catholic Church “condemns” bigotry.

As the time approaches when the Ecumenical Council is to take a final vote on the amended version — which came as a concession to prelates from Arab lands and to a small, hard-core conservative group in the Curia — it becomes obvious that the changes in the text on Jews are arousing more emotion than any other item discussed by the Ecumenical Council during its three previous sessions. Several American bishops are strongly lobbying for the restoration of the words “deicide” and “condemns.” If the amended text will be opposed by just over one-third of the 2, 200 Council fathers in the forthcoming vote this week, then the text approved last year will automatically remain in force.

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