Ecumenical Council Votes on Statement on Jews; ‘deicide’ Omitted

The Ecumenical Council started voting today on the amended Vatican statement on Catholic-Jewish relations in which the word “deicide” was dropped from the text — provisionally approved last November — which exonerated the Jews of all time of responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus. The amended text also substituted the term “deplores” for “condemns” in denouncing anti-Semitism.

The results of the vote today on the paragraphs affirming a common spiritual patrimony to Christians and Jews and urging “fraternal dialogues” between them were disclosed as being 1,937 for, 153 against and nine abstaining.

The 2,200 prelates attending the fourth session of the Council also voted on the next portion of the amended text which omits the term “deicide”. This part of the text voted upon declares that “although the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ, nevertheless what happened to Christ in his Passion cannot be attributed to all Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor to the Jews of today.”

Results of the voting on that portion were not announced because the Council session adjourned before the ballots were counted. Council sources, however, said they assumed that it was approved by a margin similar to the vote on the spiritual patrimony portion. The results of the voting on the deicide issue will be made known tomorrow when voting will be resumed on the other paragraphs of the amended text, including that which “deplores” anti-Semitism.

In starting the voting procedure, the prelates rebuffed a last-ditch conservative effort to block consideration of the draft on Jews. Three conservative bishops circulated a memorandum in the Council yesterday asking rejection of the document with the assertion that the draft treatment of the Jews was unacceptable.

The most controversial elements of the amendments were brought up in questions put at the American bishops’ press panel today. The answers of the American prelates summed up to an agreement that there was some reason for concern about the changes embodied in the amendments but that the importance of the amendments was minor compared with the significance of the entire document. The American prelates agreed that the amended declaration on the Jews “was not perfect but good without doubt, more controversial in some points than the November declaration but stronger than that version.”

CARDINAL BEA URGES PRELATES TO APPROVE OMISSION OF ‘DEICIDE’

Prior to the start of the voting today, Augustin Cardinal Bea, head of the Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity — which prepared the original text and which had the assignment of evaluating the amendments — explained the reasons for omitting the term “deicide” from the amended text. He urged the prelates to approve the omission of that term.

The Cardinal told the Council that, in considering the amendments, the Secretariat had sought to retain the meaning of the original declaration but taking into account objections expressed by some prelates. He said that the Secretariat had consulted several times not only with Catholic prelates in “Oriental” countries but also with Orthodox Church leaders.

He insisted that, according to all the experts the Secretariat had consulted, the meaning of the repudiation of the deicide charge was fully conserved in the amended text, despite omission of the word “deicide.” He also repeated an earlier statement that the word “deplores” had been substituted for the word “condemns” in the paragraph affirming the Church’s opposition to religiously-engendered anti-Semitism because in Church documents the word “condemns” was reserved for “formal heresy.” He insisted there could be no doubt about the strength of the repudiation by the Church of anti-Semitic acts.

He asserted that “difficulties and controversies” had arisen over the term “deicide.” — “for example, that the schema could contradict the Gospel.” He declared that “it is obvious to anyone who reads the text and has had it explained to him, that the substance of what we wished to express in the prior text by this word is exactly and completely expressed in the new text.”

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