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Ecumenical Council to Vote on Document on Jews Today or Tomorrow

In the expectation that the Vatican statement on the Jews will come up for a final vote at the Ecumenical Council tomorrow or Friday, an expert of the Secretariat for Christian Unity — the Vatican body which drafted the document — today gave an unofficial explanation as to why the word “deicide” was dropped from the statement, and why the word “condemns” was changed to “deplores” in the part of the text dealing with anti-Semitism.

The expert said many of the Secretariat members had felt it would add to the validity and the universal acceptability of the draft declaration if it was clearly shown that its principal themes were not necessarily incompatible with the Christian Scriptures, even when these scriptures make antagonistic references to the Jews.

He said that scriptural references to the Jews of Jesus time rejecting the Gospels were incorporated into amendments for that reason. He also referred to the principal themes as those of the acknowledgement of the common religious origin and spiritual patrimony of Christians and Jews, the desirability of a continuing dialogue between the two faiths, and the repudiation of anti-Semitism of all kinds and of all periods.

The Jewish view on the expert’s comments was to question whether they would be understood in that sense everywhere in the Catholic world. Among Jews, the fear remained that those phrases would be singled out from the text of the declaration by enemies for use against Jews, which would not be a novelty in the history of Christian-Jewish relations.

It was indicated also that there was much wider understanding in Councilary circles for the justified concern among Jews over the decision to drop the word “deicide” and the use of “deplores” as expressing the Catholic Church attitude toward anti-Semitism. Apart from the differences in strength of the two words, it was pointed out that “condemns” refers clearly also to the future, whereas “deplores” is normally applied to past events.

The Rev. George Tavard, of Pittsburgh, expert consultant on interfaith problems at the Ecumenical Council, said here today: “Some bishops have expressed concern over changes in the text, but I do not know what they can do. My guess is that it is too late to take action. The text is not as advanced as it was, but strong efforts have been made to make it satisfactory.”

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