Belgium: Declaration of Cardinal Lustiger to the World Jewish Congress

Source: FSSPX News


On January 9, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, in the presence of the participants of the annual assembly of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in Brussels, hailed the positive growth in relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish People since Vatican II. Speaking in front of 450 Jewish representatives from all over the world (the Ukraine, Russia, Argentina, Chile, the United States, France, etc.), the archbishop of Paris stressed the importance of the Declaration, Nostra Aetate and the role which Cardinal Wojtyla (now pope John Paul II), played in its redaction.

 Speaking about “Europe and the Jews”, Cardinal Lustiger recalled more than two thousand years of Jewish presence on the continent of Europe. This presence “has participated in the long and extraordinary history of Europe, always on the fringes, but never far from the center, often persecuted and threatened with destruction, but never disappearing”.

 Among the French Jewish representatives at this World Jewish Congress, were Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, Roger Cukierman, president of CRIF, as well as Rabbi Michel Serfaty. As the only speaker during the closing dinner of the WJC – it was the first time that a cardinal has participated at such an event – Mgr. Lustiger evoked the contribution of the Jewish communities to European civilization.

 In spite of controversies, the rabbis had a more or less positive relationship with Christian thinkers during the period from late antiquity up until the end of the first millennium, he said, quoting the example of Rachi de Troyes. Then from the twelfth century, came the Crusades and expulsions, and the flight to the East and the Orient of the Western communities. Later still, the Jewish elite had participated in the evolution of ideas, during the modern era, particularly since the civil emancipation at the end of the Eighteenth century.

 “It could be said without exaggeration, that the European conscience, over the last two centuries, has been profoundly and intimately marked by the presence of the Jews,” he said, mentioning in particular, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. “Participating in the edification of Western culture, some of them laid claim to, while others questioned their identity, and sometimes the Jewish sources of their thought.”

 During this period, anti-Semitism appeared in the throes of the European conscience, marked by the triumph of scientism and nationalism. And he recalled that “Nazism, then in a different way, Stalinism, used and brought mercilessly into play an anti-Semitism which became for them a program of action.”

 Cardinal Lustiger, contemplating the course of European history, considered that the flight and the extermination of the Jews had been an irreparable loss for the national cultures of Europe: “We should think particularly of Poland, Rumania, Lithuania, Germany, Austria and of many other nations. An irreparable loss also for our European identity which we have been trying to “make up for” it  during the past half century! It is in the United States of America or in Israel that the survivors of this European wreckage have been taken in, bringing with them their cultural and religious potential to the civilizations of these new worlds.”

 “How could Europe think today of her future if she failed to recognize the part of her culture which she owes to the presence of the Jews in her midst?” said the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, stressing that the idea of “repentance”, or even “reparation” continues to gain ground, “welcomed and promoted in its historical and spiritual dimension by the religious authorities of Christianity, united to the leaders of Judaism.”

 The prelate paid tribute to the tenacious and robust way in which Pope John Paul II had proposed the “purification of memory” of all peoples formerly engaged in unpardonable conflicts. However, he regretted that whereas Europe was pursuing this interior work which made her look back to her past, in other nations various forms of anti-Semitism were reappearing.

 “Certainly,” he added, “they are linked to precise political circumstances, where in certain countries, immigration of Muslim origin and wars with Arab countries are elements of provocation.” But in his opinion, the current demonstrations of anti-Semitism, in France for example, have neither the same causes or the same connotations, or the same effects, as the anti-Semitic demonstrations in Poland, Germany, Russia or in any of the other countries of central Europe. And he invited both Jews and Christians of Europe to focus on the major challenges of European civilization, “showing by facts, the false and destructive character of anti-Semitism, thus depriving it of all social legitimacy.”

 “My deepest conviction – and the developments of recent years have only confirmed it – is that today, a positive effort, pursued together by believers, Christians and Jews, is possible,” he said. This work can and must be founded on the requirements of Revelation which we receive from the Word of God, from the Bible.” He considered it essential for Jews and Christians convinced of these premises, to undertake a positive work on the moral issues of our civilization, country by country, culture by culture, taking into account each specific history.

 “The Catholic Church, I can vouch, is ready for this,” he concluded. “Confidence and mutual respect give us the unique chance to pursue, together a work of reflection, of sharing and of action for a common vision of humanity which will make Europe aware of the moral and spiritual sources of her civilization (…). I consider this to be a fundamental task, shielded from the sensations of the media, which are provoked by anti-Semitic demonstrations whose aim is to increase its credibility.