Jews and Vatican Officials to Convene on Anti-semitism

Jews and Catholics will gather at a conference in February to examine the Christian roots of anti-Semitism, according to Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interfaith Consultations.

The conference is expected to initiate work on a Vatican document that would challenge Catholic teachings worldwide.

The conclave, scheduled to take place Feb. 20 through 24 in Zurich, is expected to be the first of several meetings that will discuss the development of Christian thinking from early days to present times, including how it bears on anti-Semitism and its relation to the Holocaust.

The conference is an outgrowth of a meeting held in Miami on Sept. 11, 1987, between Pope John Paul II and 206 Jewish leaders.

Soon after, a joint Jewish-Vatican conference to explore the roots of Christian anti-Semitism was approved by the pope.

The conference is conditional on the removal of a Carmelite convent at Auschwitz to a center away from the Auschwitz grounds.

This was decided Thursday by members of the international committee, the body involved in Vatican-Jewish negotiations. The move must be made before Feb. 20.

Tanenbaum said the upcoming conference would “begin a serious scholarly examination of the history of anti-Semitism in the Western world through the ancient, the medieval and the modern periods, culminating in the Nazi Holocaust.”

Talks on the long-awaited document will probably take several years to complete. They will involve careful examination of 11 volumes of Vatican records of the years between 1939 and 1945.

Members of the Jewish group, which meets with Catholics, explained their opposition to a conference centering on the Holocaust.

Rabbi Fabian Schoenfeld, a member of the committee and a past president of the Rabbinical Council of America, explained that the Rabbinical Council position “tends to agree with the Hasidic community,” which conducts dialogue with Christians only on social issues and not on theology.

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