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Pope Paul Promulgates Decree on Jews; is Binding for All Catholics

The historic declaration on the Jews, repudiating the charge that the Jewish people are collectively responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus and deploring anti-Semitism was promulgated today by Pope Paul VI in the splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica, thus becoming a decree binding for every member of the Catholic Church.

The 2,312 prelates attending today’s public session of the Ecumenical Council, cast “pro forma” votes on the declaration which the Council approved October 15 by a ballot of 1,763 to 250. Today’s vote was 2,221 in favor of the declaration, 88 against it and three bishops abstaining. The promulgation today of the decree, which orders that Jews must never again be presented as “rejected or accursed,” took place on the seventh anniversary of the election of Pope John XXIII, the late pontiff who instituted a friendlier approach of the Catholic Church to the Jewish people.

In promulgating the declaration on the Jews and four other schemas, Pope Paul told the assembled prelates:

“May our Christian brothers, still separated from the full communion of the Catholic Church, wish to contemplate this new manifestation of its renovated face. May such contemplation come also from the followers of other religions and, among them, those who have the same relationship to Abraham, especially the Jews. They are certainly not objects of reprobation or distrust but of respect, love and hope.”

Although the “yes” votes represented an overwhelming majority, it was nevertheless considered significant that 88 “hard-core” opposition votes were recorded in a public session. This was regarded at the very least as an odd manner of expressing disapproval toward the Ecumenical Council and its head, the Pope. It was noted that the other four decrees were accepted with near-unanimity by the prelates.

At the opening of today’s public session, the entire body joined in singing the traditional “Tues Petru,” honoring the pontiff as the successor of Peter, and Psalm 132. The choice of that Psalm for this ceremony was also considered as a significant bow to the Jews. That Psalm is a paean to King David, starting with “Lord, remember David and all his afflictions,” ending with “His enemies will I clothe with shame; but upon himself shall his crown flourish.”

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