Benedict XVI receives a delegation of the International Jewish Committee

Source: FSSPX News

On June 9, the pope granted a private audience at the Vatican to the representatives of the world’s major Jewish organizations. The delegation was lead by Rabbi Israel Singer, president of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), which is based in New York. 

It was made up of 24 other persons, including Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, Cobi Benatoff, president of the European Jewish Congress and Jack Terpins president of the Latin American Jewish Congress, Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome and Adi Steg, president of the Universal Jewish Alliance. Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity as well as his secretary Mgr. Norbert Hofman, were also present. The IJCIC brings together on an international level the world Jewish agencies engaged in interreligious dialogue. For the past 35 years, the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with Judaism, has been working with this organization. Within the framework of this dialogue, the Commission and the IJCIC have already organized 18 joint meetings of the International Committee for Judaeo-Catholic liaison. The last meeting took place last July at Buenos Aires, in Argentina.

“My predecessors Paul VI and, in a particular way, John Paul II, took significant steps towards improving relations with the Jewish people,” Benedict XVI told his audience, before adding: “It is my intention to continue on this path.” “I wish to assure you that the Church remains firmly committed, in her catechesis and in every aspect of her life, to implementing this decisive teaching.” “The history of relations between our two communities has been complex and often painful, yet I am convinced that the ’spiritual patrimony’, treasured by Christians and Jews, is itself the source of wisdom and inspiration capable of guiding us toward a ’future of hope’ in accordance with the divine plan,” he said. The Pope stressed that “memories of the past remain for both communities, a moral imperative and a source of purification in our efforts to pray and work for reconciliation, justice, respect for human dignity.” This imperative must include “a continued reflection on the profound historical, moral and theological questions presented by the experience of the Shoah”.

The Pope also noted that this meeting was taking place in the year of the fortieth anniversary of the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate, explaining that its “teaching is the foundation for the relationship of the Church with the Jewish people”. The declaration of Vatican II, dated October 28, 1965, on The Church and her relations with non-Christian religions, had affirmed the respect and esteem of the Catholic Church for other religions and given a completely new orientation to the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish world. The Sovereign Pontiff explained: “The Council affirmed the Church’s conviction that, in the mystery of the divine election, the beginnings of her faith are already to be found in Abraham, Moses and the prophets”. During the Council, the pope recalled, the Church had “called for greater mutual understanding and esteem between Christians and Jews,” and she “deplored all manifestations of hatred, persecution and anti-Semitism.”

Finally, Benedict XVI expressed his satisfaction at the eighteen meetings over 35 years, which had taken place between the International Jewish Community on Interreligious Consultations and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews. On April 20, the day following his election, the pope had expressed his desire to reinforce relations with the Jews. “I put my trust in the help of Almighty God in order to continue the dialogue and strengthen collaboration with the sons and daughters of the Jewish people”, he said in a telegram addressed to the Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni. Immediately after receiving this telegram, the Chief Rabbi of Rome said he was “happy and grateful for this timely, important and significant message.”

A little earlier, he had said he appreciated “the choice of the new pope” and considered “with respect his person, full of wisdom and doctrine.” “The mind of Joseph Ratzinger is articulate and complex, but what is important has always been expressed with precision and clarity,” he added. On October 27, 2005, on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate, a Jewish delegation will be present in Rome.