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Formation of Joint Vatican-jewish Liaison Committee Historic First

The first joint group in history representing world Jewry and the Roman Catholic world embarked on an historic project here this week–the improvement of mutual understanding between Jews and Catholics through ongoing cooperative efforts in areas of common concern and responsibility. The Liaison Committee for Jewish-Catholic Cooperation met at the Paris headquarters of the Jewish Consistory Dec. 14-16 to outline its aims and map a continuing program for the next three years.

The committee was formed at a meeting a year ago at the Vatican. In the interim the Vatican designated five high ranking Church figures to meet with five Jewish leaders designated by the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations.

According to a communique issued at the close of the meeting here, the joint body agreed to appoint small working groups of scholars to study “The ways in which the relationship between religious community, people and land are conceived in the Jewish and Catholic traditions.” and “the promotion of human rights and religious freedom.” The first topic is of extreme sensitivity in that it will raise the religious significance of Judaism to the land of Israel.

According to Rabbi Mare Tannenbaum, director of inter-religious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and who at the meeting served as the body’s co-secretary, the joint studies will occupy the next three years after which the committee will review its accomplishments and decide in which directions to continue.

Members of the Jewish delegation were Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, of Englewood, N.J., chairman of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations; Gerhart Riegner, secretary general of the World Jewish Congress in Geneva; Rabbi Henry Siegman, executive vice president of the Synagogue Council of America; Rabbi Tannenbaum and Prof. Zvi Werbiowsky, chairman of the Jewish Council for Inter-religious Contacts in Jerusalem, a private Israeli group. The communique stated that relationships between the two faiths had been discussed and that the meeting was conducted in “a spirit of frankness and cordiality.”

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