Dialogue Between Jews and Catholics

Source: FSSPX News


Mutual knowledge, respect, and dialogue will make it possible to overcome the ignorance from which come forth misunderstandings, and  lack of understanding between the Catholic Church and the Jewish world, declared Oded Ben-Hur, Israel’s ambassador near the Holy See, and Bishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture during a conference on the theme “Israel and the Vatican: Reflections on Judeo-Christian Culture” on March 10. Among the members of the Curia who attended was Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, who was the first Nuncio in Israel.

According to the Osservatore Romano, Bishop Ravasi proposed five ways of dialogue based on an exegesis of the text of the Bible. For the Roman prelate, “Judaism as well as Christianity are preparing a great cultural core which will cause the West to become anchored in history.”

For the ambassador of Israel, Israeli culture, “is less remote from Christian culture than from Jewish culture. On the one hand, the Jews brought with them to Israel many values and customs they has absorbed in Christian Europe. On the other hand, the Israeli Jew is, as a rule, more secular, and laicized, less bound to the Jewish religion than the Jews of the diaspora.” Confronted with this situation, it is Israel’s and the Holy See’s duty to set up “a common agenda to launch a true social, political, and cultural dialogue.”

“The differences between us, which have their roots in our common history, have created hatred and discrimination,” Oded Ben-Hur declared, “but our greatest enemy is the abyss of ignorance, or even worse, the absence of a will to know each other.” Hence, the condition for a new dialogue is a return to the common roots in order to understand our present identities. “The modern State of Israel, and its specific culture, which is still in evolution, are substantially the re-birth of a culture and a tradition which existed in Israel 2000 years ago and gave birth to Christian culture,” he affirmed. In the diaspora, the Jews absorbed the usages and customs of other countries, “but, at the same time, he brought his own contribution, and had an influence on the society of those countries, while retaining his own identity.”

“Thus the Jewish people developed its capacity of assimilation of certain characteristics of local culture, a culture which was mainly Christian.” For this reason, we can say that “Israeli culture is an interesting and unique melting pot between mixed values, ideals, and concepts which draw both from the Jewish and the Christian cultures.” “It is also an answer to the new challenges that the State of Israel must meet, like security, its own moral, cultural, and democratic identity, as well as its role and significance as the heart of the Jewish world,” continued the Israeli diplomat.

Many are those who remained with the situation as it was 2000 years ago,” he deplored, and he regretted that there lacked “the chain of the knowledge of Zionism, of the contemporary history of the Jewish people and of present day Jews.” It is only through this knowledge that the choices of the Hebrew people and government can be understood, according to him. “There are solutions to remedy ignorance. We must launch a historical movement of mutual knowledge. The key is dialogue, and its best expression is the development of pilgrimages to the Holy Land,” declared Oded Ben-Hur. And he underlined that it was not the duty of the Hebrew government alone to set up an agenda to progress towards peace.

Asked by journalists about the juridico-financial agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel which has been in the process of negotiation for 13 years, the ambassador -- who will definitively leave his office at the Vatican next April 1st -- assured that “they were about to reach an agreement.” Oded Ben-Hur denied the statement made by the medias that there were tensions between the two sides. “There is a faster pace in the meetings. Prospects are good.” The next meetings must take place on March 17, April 17 and mid-May. Nevertheless, on February 26, the apostolic nuncio in Israel, Bishop Antonio Franco, had revealed that the Holy See had rejected Israeli proposals for taxes during the latest bi-lateral meeting in December 2007.

Lastly, the ambassador refused to comment upon the modification of the Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews in the pre-conciliar Missal, something which gave rise to tensions between the Holy See and the Jewish world. As for Bishop Gianfranco Ravasi, his opinion was that “the permanence of our identities must strengthen dialogue.” In the present climate of strained interreligious relationships between the Church and the Jewish world, “we must show this identity which has matured over the centuries.” “Maybe there should be more explanations given by the Catholics,” he suggested. (Sources: Zenit/Apic)