Catholic Church Rejects Proselytism

The sixth annual meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee ended with an agreement that the Catholic church rejects any proselytism of Jews. The meeting, which was held in Venice, Italy March 28-30, was reported on here by the Synagogue Council of America (SCA) which participated in it.

In the major paper of the meeting, Prof. Tommaso Federici, professor of Bible at the Pontifical Urbaniana University and at the Liturgical Institute of San Anselmo in Rome, said that the Catholic church’s understanding of her mission precludes proselytism.

“The church thus rejects in a clear way every form of proselytism,” he declared. “This means the exclusion of any sort of witness and preaching which in any way constitutes a physical, moral, psychological or cultural constraint on the Jews, both individuals and communities, such as might in any way destroy or even simply reduce their personal judgment, free will and full autonomy of decision at the personal or community level.”

Federici stressed that “also excluded is every sort of judgment expressive of discrimination, contempt or restriction against the Jewish people as such, and against individual Jews as such or against their faith, their worship, their general culture, and in particular, their religious culture, their past and present history, their existence and its meaning.”

He said also excluded were any forms of “hateful” comparison “which exalt the religion and fact of Christianity and by throwing discredit on the religion and fact of Judaism, whether in the past or in the present.”

CALLED SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENT

Rabbi Henry Siegman, executive vice-president of the SCA, said that Federici’s paper, by its unqualified condemnation of proselytism and its rejection of “all attempts to set up organizations of any sort” for the conversion of Jews, represents a significant development in the Catholic church that is bound to contribute to a deeper understanding between the two religions.

Prof. Shemaryahu. Talmon, of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, described a cooperative study program sponsored jointly by the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Hebrew University which consists of two semesters of Hebrew language studies, Bible, Jewish history, geography and archaeology.

In West Germany, the Catholic Bishops recently designated a permanent work group on “The Church and Judaism,” the goal of which is the promotion of a dialogue with the Jewish people, Bishop Kari B. Flugel, Auxiliary Bishop of Regensburg, reported. He said the theme “Israel and Judaism” has been a regular feature of the general assembly of German Catholics.

Theodore Freedman of New York reported on a variety of educational programs presently underway to further Jewish-Catholic understanding. He said special attention was being given by Catholic and Jewish institutions to incorporating a systematic study of Jews and Judaism into the educational institutions of the church.

Rev. Jorge Majia said that a dialogue between the Roman Catholic church and Judaism was being carried on at the highest levels by the Latin American Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Latin American Jewish communities. The Jewish members of the Liaison Committee expressed appreciation for the support given Latin American Jewry by the Catholic church in face of anti-Semitic manifestations.

Jewish participants in the meeting, in addition to Siegman and Talmon, were: Gerhart Riegner, secretary general. World Jewish Congress; Zachariah Shuster, consultant, American Jewish Committee in Paris; and Dr. Joseph L. Lichten, representative of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith in Rome.

NEXT STORY