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Orthodox Criticize Vatican Guidelines

The head of the nation’s largest Orthodox rabbinic body expressed great distress at the failure on the part of the Vatican guidelines on relations with Jews to take cognizance of the central role that the State of Israel plays for the Jewish people and their religious faith. Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, made this statement to the 500 delegates at the Council’s 26th annual mid-winter conference here which began Monday and ended today.

Rabbi Schonfeld, who also called upon the Vatican to enter into diplomatic relations with Israel, said that the guidelines, which were issued Jan, 3 to implement the “Declaration on the Jews,” “have gone a long way towards establishing a better relationship between the two faith communities” and have “eliminated many of the suspicions and misunderstandings which characterized the attitude of Christians towards Jews for many centuries.”

However, he added, “It is regrettable that one point which would have really allayed the fears of the Jewish people has not been mentioned. That is the recognition that Israel the land and Israel the people are inexorably intertwined and that the land of Israel occupies a unique position” in the “theology of Judaism.” The real step forward, Rabbi Schonfeld stressed, “would be the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel.”

Rabbi Schonfeld also stated that when the church says it would welcome joint prayers with the Jewish people, as the guidelines indicated, “we Jews must assert that joint prayers are not acceptable.” He called upon secular Jewish organizations “to beware lest in their desire to establish closer ecumenical ties with Christianity they compromise basic Jewish doctrines.” He was especially critical of pilgrimages and study programs connected with the current Holy Year proclaimed by the Vatican.

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