Historic Move to Combat Anti-semitism in Latin America

The Latin American Bishops Conference, in an historic move to combat anti-Semitism, has drawn up guidelines for the use of Catholic educators in teaching about Jews and Judaism. The guidelines are the product of a Catholic-Jewish meeting in Bogota, Colombia, sponsored by the Bishops Conference, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the Latin American Jewish Congress.

According to Rabbi Leon Klenicki, director of ADL’s Interreligious Affairs Department, who led a six-member ADL delegation to Bogota, the guidelines will be finalized in December and submitted to church leaders, including Latin American cardinals, some 900 bishops across the continent, and Catholic educators.

They are intended to:

Remove vestiges of anti-Semitism from teaching the New Testament, from Passion Plays and Passion Week sermons.

Ensure that Jews are not held responsible for the death of Jesus.

Foster a spirit of neighborliness toward Latin American Jews so they will be viewed, according to Klenicki, “as people next door instead of only as those mentioned in the Bible.”

Teach Catholics about Jews and Judaism, even in areas where there are no Jews, because of the significance of such knowledge in understanding the roots of Catholicism.

Emphasize the significance of the State of Israel for Jewish communities in Latin American and throughout the world.

Drafted September 15-17 at the Bogota meeting with the participation of some 50 leading Catholic educators, the guidelines represent the culmination of interreligious discussions with Latin American bishops dating back to 1968 when ADL first organized a meeting of Catholics and Jews in Bogota.

Klenicki said that the guidelines, when adopted, will represent another step forward in the Catholic Church’s desire to improve relations with Jews in the spirit of Vatican pronouncements over the past two decades.

He noted that discussions at the Bogota conference included the negative aspects in some Catholic religious doctrines which lead to contempt of Jews. Conference lectures by Catholic and Jewish scholars dealing with the New Testament, understanding Judaism, Jewish learning and Jewish life, and the Gospel of John were used as background information for drafting the guidelines, Klenicki said.

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