100 years of Vatican-Jewish relations


JERUSALEM, March 12 (JTA) — Following are some of the high and low points of Vatican-Jewish relations during the past century:

1904 — Pope Pius X rejects Theodor Herzl’s request that he support the Zionist movement.

1919 — Vatican warns of the danger of a Jewish state, just two years after the Balfour Declaration is issued, supporting the Jews’ right to a homeland in Palestine.

1940-1945 — Pope Pius XII is aware of the Holocaust, but fails to speak out against it.

1949 — Pope Pius XII urges that Jerusalem be internationalized.

1964 — Pope Paul VI visits Israel for one day during the first papal pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

1965 — Pope John XXIII convenes the Second Vatican Council, whose initiatives culminate in the Nostra Aetate decree, which repudiates the Catholic teaching that Jews were collectively responsible for Jesus’ death.

1968 — Pope Paul VI drops the Vatican’s call for the internationalization of Jerusalem and instead calls for international guarantees of access to holy shrines.

1974 — The Vatican establishes a commission for relations with the Jews.

1978 — Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Archbishop of Krakow in Poland, is elected pope and takes the name John Paul II.

1979 — Pope John Paul II pays homage at Auschwitz to the victims of Nazism during his first trip back to Poland after his election to the papacy.

1984 — The Vatican gives its first formal recognition of the significance of the State of Israel for the Jewish people.

1986 — In the first ever recorded visit of a pope to a synagogue, Pope John Paul II visits the main synagogue in Rome, where he embraces Rome’s chief rabbi and refers to Jews as Christianity’s “older brothers.”

1987 — Jewish opposition to Pope John Paul II’s reception of Kurt Waldheim prods the pope to promise a document dealing with the church’s persecution of the Jews and the Holocaust.

1990 — Pope John Paul II calls on Christians to repent for anti-Semitism in Christian thought.

1993 — The Vatican and Israel establish formal ties; Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Yisrael Meir Lau, meets Pope John Paul II in the Vatican, the first official encounter between a pontiff and chief rabbi from Israel.

1994 — Pope John Paul II sponsors a concert at the Vatican commemorating the Holocaust.

1997 — Israel and the Vatican sign an accord formally recognizing the legal status of Roman Catholic Church institutions in Israel. Pope John Paul II hosts a menorah-lighting ceremony at the Vatican to mark Chanukah.

1998 — The Vatican issues “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,” a document assessing the Roman Catholic Church’s behavior during World War II. The document praises Pope Pius XII for saving hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives during the Holocaust, sparking criticism from Jewish groups who say the paper failed to condemn Pius’ silence in the face of the Nazi slaughter.

2000 — The Vatican issues “Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Mistakes of the Past,” which lists several major areas where the church had failed, including the Inquisition, forced conversion and the treatment of Jews. One week before a planned trip to the Holy Land, Pope John Paul II apologizes for the church’s treatment of Jews.

(Compiled by JTA correspondent Avi Machlis in Jerusalem and Foreign Editor Mitchell Danow in New York)

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