Vatican Official Calls for Closer Ties Between Jewish, Catholic Communities

A high-level Vatican official, echoing statements made at last week’s meeting of Catholic and Jewish leaders in Prague, has denounced anti-Semitism as a sin and called for substantive measures to create more understanding between the Jewish and Catholic communities.

Rev. Pier Francesco Fumagalli, secretary of the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews, made his remarks during a two day conference commemorating the 25th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate.”

Issued by the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the declaration called for an improved relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people.

Fumagalli acknowledged that “the Jewish people continue to have a positive role within God’s unique design for the universe.”

The next steps in the evolution of the relationship between the two faith communities, Fumagalli said, are “to include teaching of these doctrines in theological seminaries, to move to counter anti-Semitism and to educate people with the knowledge of different civilizations, religions and cultures.”

The conference, held at Fordham University and sponsored with the cooperation of the American Jewish Committee, convened less than a week after the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee met in Prague.

At the Prague meeting, leaders from the two faiths called for strong initiatives to be taken to combat anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe.

DOCUMENT BEING PREPARED

Fumagalli confirmed that a document providing a synthesis of papal history in relationship to the Jews is now being prepared by the Vatican.

He also called for “close cooperation between the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations and the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews, in order to avoid future misunderstandings” like the conflict over the establishment of a convent at Auschwitz.

“We have a sacred duty to create a community of mutual esteem and reciprocal caring,” Fumagalli said. “We must promote true conciliation.”

Rabbi A. James Rudin, national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee, noted that with the “explicit mandate” issued by the Vatican through the papal commission and now Fumagalli, “the full weight and authority of the church at the highest level is involved in the battle against anti-Semitism.”

At the opening dinner of the Nostra Aetate conference on Tuesday, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel observed that dramatic breakthroughs have been made in tensions between the church and the Jewish people over the past 25 years.

“We were no longer accused of deicide,” he said. “Anti-Semitism was deplored, if not denounced. Dialogue between Catholics and Jews was encouraged. And the Jewish origins of Christianity were emphasized.”

The Vatican has not yet officially recognized the State of Israel, a step that the Vatican Jewish dialogue groups are pressing for, Rudin said.

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