The Roots of Anti-Judaism in the Christian Environment
From the The Holy See - Vatican web site
From Pope John Paul II's discourse during
his visit to the Rome Synagogue on 13 April 1986
This gathering in a way brings to a close,
after the Pontificate of John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council, a long
period which we must not tire of reflecting upon in order to draw from
it the appropriate lessons. Certainly, we cannot and should not forget
that the historical circumstances of the past were very different from
those that have laboriously matured over the centuries. The general acceptance
of a legitimate plurality on the social, civil and religious levels has
been arrived at with great difficulty. Nevertheless, a consideration of
centuries-long cultural conditioning could not prevent us from recognizing
that the acts of discrimination, unjustified limitation of religious freedom,
oppression also on the level of civil freedom in regard to the Jews were,
from an objective point of view, gravely deplorable manifestations. Yes,
once again, through myself, the Church, in the words of the well-known
Declaration Nostra Aetate (No. 4), "deplores the hatred, persecutions,
and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at any time and
by anyone"; I repeat: "by anyone".
I would like once more to express a word
of abhorrence for the genocide decreed against the Jewish people during
the last War, which led to the holocaust of millions of innocent victims.
When I visited on 7 June 1979 the concentration
camp at Auschwitz and prayed for the many victims from various nations,
I paused in particular before the memorial stone with the inscription in
Hebrew and thus manifested the sentiments of my heart: "This inscription
stirs the memory of the People whose sons and daughters were destined to
total extermination. This People has its origins in Abraham, who is our
father in faith (cf. Rom 4,12), as Paul of Tarsus expressed it. Precisely
this People, which received from God the commandment: 'Thou shalt not kill',
has experienced in itself to a particular degree what killing means. Before
this inscription it is not permissible for anyone to pass by with indifference"
(Insegnamenti 1979, p. 1484). The Jewish community of Rome too paid
a high price in blood.
And it was surely a significant gesture
that in those dark years of racial persecution the doors of our religious
houses, of our churches, of the Roman Seminary, of buildings belonging
to the Holy See and of Vatican City itself were thrown open to offer refuge
and safety to so many Jews of Rome being hunted by their persecutors.
No one is unaware that the fundamental
difference from the very beginning has been the attachment of us Catholics
to the person and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, a son of your People…,
from which were also born the Virgin Mary, the Apostles who were the "foundations
and pillars of the Church" and the greater part of the first Christian
community. But this attachment is located in the order of faith, that is
to say in the free assent of the mind and heart guided by the Spirit, and
it can never be the object of exterior pressure, in one sense or the other.
This is the reason why we wish to deepen dialogue in loyalty and friendship,
in respect for one another's intimate convictions, taking as a fundamental
basis the elements of the Revelation which we have in common, as a "great
spiritual patrimony" (cf. Nostra Aetate No. 4).
We are all aware that, among the riches
of this paragraph No. 4 of Nostra Aetate, three points are especially
relevant. I would like to underline them here, before you, in this truly
The first is that the Church of Christ
discovers her "bond" with Judaism by "searching into her own mystery",
(cf. Nostra Aetate, ibid.). The Jewish religion is not "extrinsic"
to us, but in a certain way is "intrinsic" to our own religion. With Judaism
therefore we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion.
You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be
said that you are our elder brothers.
The second point noted by the Council is
that no ancestral or collective blame can be imputed to the Jews as a people
for "what happened in Christ's passion" (cf. Nostra Aetate, ibid.).
Not indiscriminately to the Jews of that time, nor to those who came afterwards,
not to those of today. So any alleged theological justification for discriminatory
measures or, worse still, for acts of persecution is unfounded. The Lord
will judge each one "according to his own works", Jews and Christians alike
(cf. Rom 2,6).
The third point that I would like to emphasise
in the Council's Declaration is a consequence of the second. Notwithstanding
the Church's awareness of her own identity, it is not lawful to say that
the Jews are "repudiated or cursed", as if this were taught or could be
deduced from the Sacred Scriptures of the Old or the New Testament (cf.
Aetate, ibid). Indeed, the Council has already said in this same text
of Nostra Aetate, and also in the Dogmatic Constitution
Gentium (No. 16), referring to Saint Paul in the Letter to the Romans
(11,28-29), that the Jews are beloved of God, who has called them with
an irrevocable calling.
From the discourse of the Holy Father
on occasion of the visit to the Vatican by the Chief Rabbi of Rome Elio
Toaff 10 years after Pope John Paul II's meeting with the Jewish community
The new spirit of friendship and reciprocal
willingness, which characterises Catholic-Jewish relations, can represent
the most important symbol which Jews and Catholics have to offer to a troubled
world, which cannot resolve to recognise the primacy of love over hatred.
The questions of the Highest in the Book
of the Genesis: "Where are you?", "Where is your brother?" (Gen 3,9; 4,9),
continue to resound even in our world calling on today's men to meet, get
to know each other and learn from one another. They call for an answer
along with the common challenges of history, to elaborate satisfactory
solutions to impending problems.
Holy See - Vatican web site
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