Menu JTA Search

Rafael, Goren Rap Vatican Guidelines on Jewish-christian Relations

The Vatican set of guidelines “on the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions” issued last Friday came under withering attack here from Religious Affairs Minister Yitzhak Rafael. He declared yesterday that he could not see the document as “an outstretched hand towards the Jewish people” as, he noted, had been described in some quarters. The Minister was Joined today by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren who stated that he was less than enthusiastic about the Vatican document.

Rafael blasted the document for failing to mention the existence of Israel and for endorsing the ancient Christian version of the crucifixion: that the Jewish leaders of that time were responsible for deicide. This teaching had caused “rivers of holy and innocent Jewish blood” to flow through the centuries,” Rafael said, and the Vatican showed in its statement that the church leaders of today remained faithful to it.

Rafael conceded, however, that the guidelines’ statement freeing Jews from the guilt of deicide in generations after Christ was a positive step. He commended the paragraph that condemned anti-Semitism, adding, that it “remains without any practical consequence.”

EXPRESSLY CATHOLIC DOCUMENT

The Vatican declaration as a whole was “an expressly Catholic document,” Rafael declared. It was written “out of deep identification with the historic approach of the Catholic Church towards Judaism, and it is therefore difficult for me to find in it any message of significant change….” The Minister said he could “not seek in the statement’s four sections paths of understanding between Christians and Jews.” The four sections dealt with Christian-Jewish dialogue, liturgy, teaching and education, and joint social action.

The Vatican statement revealed the fact, Raphael added, that the church had still not forsworn the hope that some day the Jews will accept Christianity, though it did dissociate itself from aggressive forms of missionary activity, preferring methods of persuasion. Judaism never sought to convert others, and it had the right to expect the same treatment from other faiths, the Minister said. The Vatican’s condemnation of anti-Semitism “might indicate the first signs of regret for a misguided historic process….Here and there in the document there are symptoms of a conciliatory spirit towards the Jews, in the blessed pattern of Pope John XXIII.”

DOES NOT HERALD REAL CHANGE

Christian wrong-doing to the Jews would be atoned for when the Christian world comes to the aid of the Jewish people in rebuilding its homeland and gathering its exiles, Rafael continued. The absence of any reference to the existence of the State of Israel, thereby ignoring the greatest divine event of our generation; proves now far the church still is from recognizing the religious and historic link between the people of Israel and the land of Israel, he said, Therefore, the document evinces no real movement and does not herald a real change, Rafael concluded.

Rabbi Goren stated that if the Vatican really wanted to change its traditional hostile attitude toward the Jews, it should have begun with a statement recognizing Israel and offering assistance to Jews in countries where they are being persecuted. He also ruled out the possibility of holding common services between Jews and Christians, noting that such services would endanger the uniqueness of the Jewish people.

The Vatican guidelines were issued to implement the “Declaration on the Jews” issued in 1965 by the Second Vatican Council. The new guidelines were prepared by the Catholic Church’s Commission on Relations With Judaism.

NEXT STORY