ROME (Jan. 21)
Christians must change their negative attitudes toward Jews if relations between the two faiths arc to improve. Pope John Paul II said last week.
The pontiff’s remark was contained in a message issued during a “Day of Judaism” organized last week by the Roman Catholic clergy in Italy.
In what is to become an annual event, Jan. 17 was set aside by the Italian Catholic Church as a special day to foster dialogue with the Jews. The event preceded a weeklong period devoted to encouraging Christian unity.
It is believed to be the first time the Catholic hierarchy in any country has undertaken such an initiative.
The pope’s message was made public by Bishop Clement Rive during a conference on Christian-Jewish relations that culminated the Day of Judaism last Wednesday night.
Panelists at the conference included Riva; Rome’s chief rabbi, Elio Toaff; Tullia Zevi, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities; and Maria Vingiani, president of the church’s ecumenical organization.
“The hall was packed. People were standing,” Zevi reported.
Riva told the meeting that the pontiff authorized him to convey his greetings and the message that the day must represent the beginning of a change of mentality for Christians.
“Among Christians there is still too much diffidence, too many misconceptions,” he said.
“Negative sentiments like anti-Semitism or historical prejudices arc hard to die out,” he added, noting that among the most tenacious of ail was “the infamous accusation against the Jewish people for the death of Jesus.”
The collective guilt of Jews was expunged by Nostra Actuate (Our Times), the historic proclamation of the Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Council in 1965.
But church leaders admitted that one reason for establishing the Day of Judaism was because despite the passage of 25 years, the teachings of Nostra Actuate are still not well known among Catholics at large.