Dialogue with the Jews

Source: FSSPX News


Benedict XVI is hoping that the dialogue between Jews and Christians will help the world to get out of its conflicts and violence. This is what he declared when he received the American representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center on November 14. The pope expressed the wish that this century may see the world “emerge from conflicts and violence to move towards a future of “reconciliation justice and peace”. He considered that Christians and Jews, whose relationship is improving, could “do much” in this respect.

Benedict XVI also recalled that the year 2005 was the 40th anniversary of the Conciliar Document Nostra Aetate, “which formulated the principles that have guided the Church’s efforts to promote a better understanding between Jews and Catholics.” “After a difficult and painful past, the relations between our two communities are currently taking a new and more positive direction”, he affirmed.

In his speech, Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Jewish American Center, stressed the importance of Nostra Aetate, which condemned “anti Semitism directed against Jews”, even though previously, the Jews had often been “despised”. He also thanked Benedict XVI for his words on the occasion of his visit to the synagogue in Cologne, showing his concern to continue the work of John Paul II. Marvin Hier also evoked the figure of Simon Wiesenthal, also known as the “conscience of the holocaust”, “another great man of conviction”, who died on September 20 last.

The American Rabbi also deplored the fact that, 60 years after Auschwitz, anti Semitism “had once again found a fertile breeding ground in Europe.” Moreover, he declared that the greatest threat to mankind today, did not come from atheists, but from “religious fanatics”. Thus, he condemned the words of the Iranian president, who wanted to see the state of Israel wiped off the world map, and to see Iran equipped with nuclear weapons.

This was the third visit of representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to the Vatican. Present in various parts of the United States and in Paris, the Wiesenthal Center is currently building a new center “for human dignity” in the heart of Jerusalem, an “institution which will promote mutual respect and social responsibility between Jews and their non Jewish neighbors throughout the area”, according to rabbi Hier.

On November 17, Benedict XVI gave a private audience to the president of the State of Israel, Moshe Katsav. During the visit, the Israeli president  invited Benedict XVI to the Holy Land. “I have invited the pope to make a State visit to Israel”, he told journalists before leaving Rome. “He gave a positive response to my invitation”. Moshe Katsav did not give a specific date, but hoped that the “visit would take place in 2006”.

President Katsav also said that from the outset of their discussion, Benedict XVI had broached the issues of terrorism and anti-Semitism. “We agreed to condemn terrorist attacks, which are contrary to the spirit of Islam and the Koran”, he declared, saying that he had thanked the pope for his visit to the synagogue of Cologne and for his words in favor of the people of Israel. Finally, the Israeli president asked that a catalog of Jewish works kept in the Vatican be set up  in order to facilitate research work. Benedict XVI gave his consent.

The exchange of traditional gifts was particularly significant. The pope presented the president with a reproduction of the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate. The president also received a reproduction of the handwritten speech given by John Paul II during his visit to Auschwitz. For his part, president Katsav gave the Sovereign Pontiff a fragment of ancient papyrus written in Hebrew and two photographs of the mosaics recently discovered at  Megiddo in the Holy Land, as well as three books. The Christian mosaics, recently brought to light by two prisoners during extension work on the town’s high security prison in the north of Israel, could have come from the Holy Land’s oldest church. However experts remain cautious as to their date.

John Paul II had already given an audience to Moshe Katsav on December 12, 2002. The Israel president had already met Cardinal Ratzinger on the occasion of the funeral of the Polish pope, on April 8.