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Landmark in Catholic-jewish Relations

A Spanish-language version of an interreligious prayer service commemorating the victims of the Nazi Holocaust has been published by the Latin American Catholic Bishops Conference (CELAM) and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and distributed throughout Latin America.

Titled “De La Muerte a La Esperanza: Reflexiones Liturgicas Sobre el Holocausto” (“From Death to Hope: Liturgical Reflections on the Holocaust”), the service includes a prayer delivered by Pope John Paul II at Auschwitz in 1979 and an in vocation by German Pastor Martin Niemoeller, as well as other prayers, Biblical texts and Holocaust reflections. The liturgy was compiled by Dr. Eugene Fisher, executive secretary of the Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish relations of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Rabbi Leon Klenicki, associate director of ADL’s Department of Interfaith Affairs.

FIRST LITURGY THAT IS NON-CATHOLIC

“This is a landmark in the advancement of Catholic-Jewish understanding in South America,” according to Klenicki. “It is the first time that the Latin American Bishops Conference — or for that matter any Bishops Conference in the world — has published a liturgy that is non-Catholic.”

The liturgy has been distributed to Latin American bishops, ecumenical officials and director of Episcopal liturgy committees. According to Klenicki, CEIAM has recommended that these bishops and officials contact local Jewish community leaders to arrange joint commemorations.

The new liturgy was designed to meet the needs of an increasing number of interreligious Holocaust remembrance services and addresses the question of the “silence of so many” in the face of the Nazi persecutions, Klenicki noted. He added, however, that some Europeans “spoke with their deeds” in coming to the aid of Jewish victims. The prayer service text provides separate accounts of how Christians from seven European nations helped save Jews from Nazi murderers.

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