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Catholic Study on Christian-jewish Relations Hailed As Significant Contribution

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The teachings of the Catholic Church help lesson feelings of anti-Semitism, according to a two–year study by the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, in cooperation with the American Jewish Committee. In releasing the study here today Canon Francois Houtart, director of the university’s Socio-Religious Research Center, reported that the attitude toward Jews by those who had received a Catholic education in Brussels was “not a fundamentally unfavorable one, and, practically, tied up but little with religious factors.” But Canon Houtart warned that “old-time images still exist in latent fashion among a substantial part of the public and these risk surfacing in explicit manner in a conflict situation.” That is most true among adults, he continued, as they tend to see the Jew as “having faults and qualities, as a stranger and as a cohesive group,” whereas youths “are much more likely to define Jews in terms of religion and persecution of the Jewish group.” Yet, noted the Catholic leader, the more one knows Jews the less prejudiced he is against them, and “adults are quite better than youth in this regard.” Politically speaking, the report goes on, “a respondent of the Right sterotypes more than one of the Center regarding the Jew as businessman, and that of the Center more than that of the Left.”

It adds that “the adult population is better than the youth in all three political groupings but most particularly among the Left.” “The role of catechetic teaching,” Cannon Houtart said, “ought to be to dismantle these latent sources of anti-Jewish mentalities. These findings should be applied to other aspects of religious expression, such as preaching, spoken and non-written catechetic teaching, religious programs on radio and television, and toward other milieus, either of different social classes or in regions where the Jewish group is a more substantive reality in social terms.” Bertram H. Gold, executive vice president of the AJCommittee, called the Louvain study “one of the many important outcomes” of Vatican Council II and “another significant step in building understanding between Christians and Jews by getting to the roots of anti-Semitic attitudes.” But he added that the AJCommittee would pay special attention to the report’s disclosure of what he called new-found as pects of anti-Jewish “hostility” that “may have developed among those not closely identified with the Church, especially the young.”

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