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Cardinal Bea, Arriving in New York, Explains Pope’s Sermon on Deicide

April 29, 1965
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

August in Cardinal Bea, president of the Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity, stated here today through his official spokesman, that Pope Paul VI “had no intention whatever in the sermon which he delivered in Rome on Passion Sunday to refer in any manner at all to the Ecumenical Council’s declaration on non-Christian religions.”

Cardinal Bea came to New York today on his way to Philadelphia where he will receive tomorrow night the International Fellowship Award of the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission, an interfaith body. The statement on behalf of Cardinal Bea was made by his secretary, the Rev. Stephan Schmidt, who assured newsmen that he was directly and fully authorized by the Cardinal to make the statement.

Asked whether the Pope’s Passion Sunday sermon had contributed to confusion over the Pontiff’s attitude toward the Ecumenical Council’s declaration on non-Christi on religions, which would exonerate the Jewish people of the charge of deicide in the death of Jesus, Father Schmidt said on behalf of Cardinal Bea:

“For an interpretation of the Holy Father’s Passion Sunday homily, it is essential to keep in mind that the Pope was speaking to ordinary and simple faithful people–not before a learned body–and so he did not use any specific theological, if you like technical, language. Therefore his words cannot be interpreted in the same strict way in which a councillary document is and must be interpreted. A Councillary document is very precise. You cannot repeat it in a simple sermon. So, an honest interpretation of the Holy Father’s homily cannot be interpreted in the same manner that you would interpret a councillary document.”


Once more asserting that he was directly authorized by Cardinal Bea, Father Schmidt reiterated a statement made last Monday on behalf of the Cardinal Bea Secretariat in Rome, stating very definitely that the declaration which would exonerate the Jews of the deicide charge, was “still in the hands of the Secretariat.”

Father Schmidt noted that when the declaration was adopted preliminarily by the Ecumenical Council last November by a vote of 1992 to 99, a total of 269 amendments were entered by prelates who were members of the Council. “You must bear in mind,” he stated, “that the prelates who proposed those amendments must be, under the Council rules, considered as having voted for the draft but having exceptions only on the specific points mentioned in their amendments.”

Father Schmidt also said that there was and still is some opposition in the Catholic Church to the Declaration on Relations with non-Christians. However, he said, “the opposition comes mainly from Near East Christians where there is great difficulty in understanding the declaration fully. The Secretariat has done and is continuing to do what it can to help these prelates to understand the declaration fully. it is for that reason that the revised draft, as passed by the Council in November, mentioned Moslems.”

Father Schmidt conceded, in answer to questions, that the main opposition from Near Eastern prelates was political in nature. These prelates, he declared, fear “that the declaration will be abused so as to encourage and strengthen Israel and lead the Holy See to recognize Israel. However, Cardinal Bea has declared openly in the Council twice that the declaration is not political but theological.” Upon his arrival here. Cardinal Bea was greeted by a number of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish leaders, including American Jewish Committee president Morris B. Abram, who left from here for the White House.

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