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The Catholic Church on Anti-Semitism and Anti-Judaism

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By Staff (Oct. 30, 2018)

In light of the terrible mass shooting at the Jewish Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, Oct. 27, it seemed important that we share with you some key quotes from the Catholic Church's teaching on our Jewish brothers and sisters, their faith, and the anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism that clearly still threatens their well-being.

Pope Francis
Sadly, anti-Semitism, which I again denounce in all its forms as completely contrary to Christian principles and every vision worthy of the human person, is still widespread today. I reaffirm that "the Catholic Church feels particularly obliged to do all that is possible with our Jewish friends to repel anti-Semitic tendencies" (Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable, 47) — Pope Francis, Audience with the Anti-Defamation League, February 9, 2017.

Another important goal of Jewish-Catholic dialogue consists in jointly combatting all manifestations of racial discrimination against Jews and all forms of anti-Semitism, which have certainly not yet been eradicated and re-emerge in different ways in various contexts. History teaches us where even the slightest perceptible forms of anti-Semitism can lead: the human tragedy of the Shoah in which two-thirds of European Jewry were annihilated. Both faith traditions are called to maintain together an unceasing vigilance and sensitivity in the social sphere as well. Because of the strong bond of friendship between Jews and Catholics, the Catholic Church feels particularly obliged to do all that is possible with our Jewish friends to repel anti-Semitic tendencies. Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed that a Christian can never be an anti-Semite, especially because of the Jewish roots of Christianity. — Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, "The Gifts And The Calling Of God Are Irrevocable" (Rom 11:29): A Reflection On Theological Questions Pertaining To Catholic-Jewish Relations On The Occasion Of The 50th Anniversary Of "Nostra Aetate" (No.4), December 10, 2015, 47.

Pope Benedict XVI
Dear friends, it is with great pleasure that I meet with you this evening. Our meeting auspiciously coincides with the vigil of the weekly celebration of the Shabbat, the day which from time immemorial has occupied a significant position in the religious and cultural life of the people of Israel. Every pious Jew sanctifies the Shabbat with the reading of the Scriptures and the reciting of the Psalms. Dear friends, as you know, the prayer of Jesus also was nourished by the Psalms. Regularly he went to the temple and the synagogue. There he too listened to the word on the Sabbath. There he wanted to underline the goodness with which God cares for man, even in the arrangement of time. Does not the Talmud Yoma (85b) say: the Sabbath is offered to you, but you are not offered to the Sabbath? Christ has asked the people of the Covenant to recognize always the unprecedented greatness and love of the Creator for all humanity. Dear friends, because of that which unites us and that which separates us, we share a relationship that should be strengthened and lived. And we know that these fraternal bonds constitute a continual invitation to know and to respect one another better.

By her very nature the Catholic Church feels obliged to respect the Covenant made by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Indeed, the Church herself is situated within the eternal Covenant of the Almighty, whose plans are immutable, and she respects the children of the Promise, the children of the Covenant, as her beloved brothers and sisters in the faith. She compellingly repeats, through my voice, the words of the great Pope Pius XI, my beloved predecessor: Spiritually, we are Semites (Allocution to the Belgian Pilgrims, 16 September 1938). The Church therefore is opposed to every form of anti-Semitism, which can never be theologically justified. The theologian Henri de Lubac, in a time of darkness, as Pius XII (Summi Pontificatus, 10 October 1939) described it, added that to be anti-Semitic also signifies being anti-Christian (cf. Un nuovo fronte religioso in: Israele e la Fede Cristiana [1942]). Once again I feel the duty to pay heartfelt recognition to those who have died unjustly and to those that have dedicated themselves to assure that the names of these victims may always be remembered. God does not forget! — Pope Benedict XVI, Address, Meeting with Representatives of the Jewish Community, Apostolic Journey of His Holiness Benedict XVI to France on the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes, Sept. 12, 2008.

Pope St. John Paul II
We recall and abide by what Pope John Paul II, addressing the leaders of the Jewish community in Strasbourg in 1988,stated: "I repeat again with you the strongest condemnation of anti-Semitism and racism, which are opposed to the principles of Christianity".(Address to Jewish Leaders, Strasbourg, 9 October 1988, no. 8: Insegnamenti 113, 1988, 1134.) The Catholic Church therefore repudiates every persecution against a people or human group anywhere, at any time. She absolutely condemns all forms of genocide, as well as the racist ideologies which give rise to them. — Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, March 16, 1998.

The subject of your symposium is the correct theological interpretation of the relations between the Church of Christ and the Jewish people. The Council's Declaration Nostra aetate laid the foundations for this and I myself, in exercising my Magisterium, have had occasion several times to speak on them. In fact, in the Christian world — I do not say on the part of the Church as such — erroneous and unjust interpretations of the New Testament regarding the Jewish people and their alleged culpability have circulated for too long, engendering feelings of hostility towards this people. They contributed to the lulling of consciences, so that when the wave of persecutions inspired by a pagan anti-Semitism, which in essence is equivalent to an anti-Christianity, swept across Europe, alongside Christians who did everything to save the persecuted even at the risk of their lives, the spiritual resistance of many was not what humanity rightfully expected from the disciples of Christ. Your lucid examination of the past, in view of a purification of memory, is particularly appropriate for clearly showing that anti-Semitism has no justification and is absolutely reprehensible. …

[T]hose who regard the fact that Jesus was a Jew and that his milieu was the Jewish world as mere cultural accidents, for which one could substitute another religious tradition from which the Lord's person could be separated without losing its identity, not only ignore the meaning of salvation history, but more radically challenge the very truth of the Incarnation and make a genuine concept of inculturation impossible. …

On the basis of what has just been said, we can draw some conclusions for guiding the attitude of Christians and the work of theologians. The Church firmly condemns all forms of genocide, as well as the racist theories that have inspired them and have claimed to justify them. One may recall Pius XI's Encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (1937) and Pius XII's Summi Pontificatus (1939); the latter cited the law of human solidarity and of charity towards every individual, regardless of the people to which he belongs. Racism is thus a negation of the deepest identity of the human being, who is a person created in the image and likeness of God. To the moral evil of any genocide the Shoah adds the evil of a hatred that attacks God's saving plan for history. The Church knows that this hatred is also aimed directly at her.

From St Paul's teaching in the Letter to the Romans we learn those fraternal sentiments, rooted in faith, that we must feel towards the children of Israel (cf. Rom 9:4-5). The Apostle stresses: "For the sake of their forefathers", they are beloved of God, whose gifts and call are irrevocable (cf. Rom 11:28-29). — St. John Paul II, Address To A Symposium On The Roots Of Anti-Judaism, October 31, 1997.

The urgency and importance of precise, objective and rigorously accurate teaching on Judaism for our faithful follows too from the danger of anti-Semitism which is always ready to reappear under different guises. The question is not merely to uproot from among the faithful the remains of anti-Semitism still to be found here and there, but much rather to arouse in them, through educational work, an exact knowledge of the wholly unique "bond". (Nostra Aetate, 4) which joins us as a Church to the Jews and to Judaism. In this way, they would learn to appreciate and love the latter, who have been chosen by God to prepare the coming of Christ and have preserved everything that was progressively revealed and given in the course of that preparation, notwithstanding their difficulty in recognising in Him their Messiah. — Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church, 1982, 8.

Vatican II
As the sacred synod searches into the mystery of the Church, it remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham's stock.

Thus the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God's saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes that all who believe in Christ-Abraham's sons according to faith-are included in the same Patriarch's call, and likewise that the salvation of the Church is mysteriously foreshadowed by the chosen people's exodus from the land of bondage. The Church, therefore, cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles.(7) Indeed, the Church believes that by His cross Christ, Our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles. making both one in Himself.(8)

The Church keeps ever in mind the words of the Apostle about his kinsmen: "theirs is the sonship and the glory and the covenants and the law and the worship and the promises; theirs are the fathers and from them is the Christ according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:4-5), the Son of the Virgin Mary. She also recalls that the Apostles, the Church's main-stay and pillars, as well as most of the early disciples who proclaimed Christ's Gospel to the world, sprang from the Jewish people.

As Holy Scripture testifies, Jerusalem did not recognize the time of her visitation,(9) nor did the Jews in large number, accept the Gospel; indeed not a few opposed its spreading.(10) Nevertheless, God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues-such is the witness of the Apostle.(11) In company with the Prophets and the same Apostle, the Church awaits that day, known to God alone, on which all peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and "serve him shoulder to shoulder" (Soph. 3:9).(12)

Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.

True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ;(13) still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.

Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.

Besides, as the Church has always held and holds now, Christ underwent His passion and death freely, because of the sins of men and out of infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation. It is, therefore, the burden of the Church's preaching to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God's all-embracing love and as the fountain from which every grace flows.

We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man's relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: "He who does not love does not know God" (1 John 4:8).

No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned.

The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion. On the contrary, following in the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, this sacred synod ardently implores the Christian faithful to "maintain good fellowship among the nations" (1 Peter 2:12), and, if possible, to live for their part in peace with all men,(14) so that they may truly be sons of the Father who is in heaven.(15) — Vatican II, Nostra Aetate (In Our Time), Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, October 28, 1965, 4-5.

Notes:
7. Cf. Rom. 11:17-24
8. Cf. Eph. 2:14-16
9. Cf. Lk. 19:44
10. Cf. Rom. 11:28
11. Cf. Rom. 11:28-29; cf. dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium (Light of nations) AAS, 57 (1965) pag. 20
12. Cf. Is. 66:23; Ps. 65:4; Rom. 11:11-32
13. Cf. John. 19:6
14. Cf. Rom. 12:18
15. Cf. Matt. 5:45


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