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Christian, Jewish Leaders Welcome Decision on Text of Passion Play

American Christian and Jewish leaders have welcomed the recent vote of the town council of Oberammergau, Germany, which decided that the 1980 presentation of its famous Passion Play is to be based on an earlier text than the highly anti-Semitic version that has been presented for more than a century.

As a result of the vote, the 1980 Passion Play is to be performed from a script written in 1750 by a Benedictine monk, Ferdinand Rosner, replacing an 1860 text by a priest named Joseph Alois Daisenberger. The Daisenberger version, which has been acted every 10 years for more than a century, is filled with statements and implications holding the Jewish people solely responsible for the death of Jesus. The Rosser script maintains that all mankind was responsible for Jesus’ death, and that his crucifixion stemmed from a plot hatched by Lucifer and his evil spirits.

Representatives of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches of Christ and the American Jewish Committee, at a news conference last Friday morning at the AJCommittee’s headquarters, called the town council’s decision “a major step in consolidating the improved relationship between Christians and Jews that evolved from the Vatican Council II declaration repudiating the charge against the Jewish people for collective guilt in the death of Jesus.”

Bertram H. Gold, executive vice-president of the AJCommittee, who chaired the news conference, described the Passion Play as a “long-time concern” of the AJCommittee. It was more than 20 years ago that the AJCommittee made its first line-by-line analysis of the Daisenberger script and came to the conclusion that it was a “highly anti-Semitic document that could not help but contribute to the misunderstanding of Jews and Judaism.” Gold said.

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