John Paul II – Visit at the synagogue of Rome (1986)

Source: FSSPX News


[Reminder of the text of Vatican II authorizings interreligious dialogue, Nostra Ætate]

  Today’s visit is meant to make a decisive contribution to the consolidation of the good relations between our two communities, in imitation of the example of so many men and women who have worked and who are still working today, on both sides, to overcome old prejudices and to secure ever wider and fuller recognition of that "bond" and that "common spiritual patrimony" that exists between Jews and Christians.

 This is the hope expressed in the fourth paragraph of the Council’s Declaration Nostra Aetate, which I have just mentioned, on the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions. The decisive turning-point in relations between the Catholic Church and Judaism, and with individual Jews, was occasioned by this brief but incisive paragraph.

 We are all aware  that, among the riches of this paragraph no. 4 of Nostra Aetate, three points are especially relevant. I would like to underline them here, before you, in this truly unique circumstance. The first is that the Church of Christ discovers her "bond" with Judaism by "searching into her own mystery" (cf. Nostra Aetate, ibid.) The Jewish religion is not "extrinsic" to us, but in a certain way is "intrinsic" to our own religion. With Judaism therefore we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.

 The second point noted by the Council is that no ancestral or collective blame can be imputed to the Jews as a people for "what happened in Christ’s passion" (cf. Nostra Aetate, ibid.) Not indiscriminately to the Jews of that time, nor to those who came afterwards, nor to those of today. So any alleged theological justification for discriminatory measures or, worse still, for acts of persecution is unfounded. The Lord will judge each one "according to his own works," Jews and Christians alike (cf. Rom 2:6)

 The third point that I would like to emphasize in the Council’s Declaration is a consequence of the second. Notwithstanding the Church’s awareness of her own identity, it is not lawful to say that the Jews are "repudiated or cursed," as it this were taught or could be deduced from the Sacred Scriptures of the Old or the New Testament (cf. Nostra Aetate, ibid.).  Indeed, the Council had already said in this same text of Nostra Aetate, but also in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, no. 16, referring to Saint Paul in the Letter to the Romans (11:28-29), that the Jews are beloved of God, who has called them with an irrevocable calling.

 On these convictions rest our present relations. On the occasion of this visit to your Synagogue, I wish to reaffirm them and to proclaim them in their perennial value. For this is the meaning which is to be attributed to my visit to you, to the Jews of Rome.


[Rejection of syncretism, but also of proselytism in the name of liberty of conscience]

 It is not of course because the differences between us have now been overcome that I have come among you. We know well that this is not so.  First of all, each of our religions, in the full awareness of the many bonds which unite them to each other, and in the first place that "bond" which the Council spoke of, wishes to be recognized and respected in its own identity, beyond any syncretism and any ambiguous appropriation. (…)

 No one is unaware  that the fundamental difference from the very beginning has been the attachment of us Catholics to the person and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, a son of your People, from which were also born the Virgin Mary, the Apostles who were the "foundations and pillars of the Church" and the greater part of the first Christian community. But this attachment is located in the order of faith, that is to say in the free assent of the mind and heart guided by the Spirit, and it can never be the object of exterior pressure, in one sense or the other. This is the reason why we wish to deepen dialogue in loyalty and friendship, in respect for one another’s intimate convictions, taking as a fundamental basis the elements of the Revelation which we have in common, as a "great spiritual patrimony" (cf. Nostra Aetate, 4)


[Invitation to collaborate on the level of ethics in the name of the dignity of the human person]

It must be said, then, that the ways opened for our collaboration, in the light of our common heritage drawn from the Law and Prophets, are various and important.  We wish to recall first of all a collaboration in favor of man, his life from conception until natural death, his dignity, his freedom, his rights, his self-development in a society which is not hostile but friendly and favorable, where justice reigns and where, in this nation, on the various continents and throughout the world, it is peace that rules, the shalom hoped for by the lawmakers, prophets and wise men of Israel.

 More in general, there is the problem of morality, the great field of individual and social ethics. We are all aware of how acute the crisis is on this point in the age in which we are living. In a society which is often lost in agnosticism and individualism and which is suffering the bitter consequences of selfishness and violence,  Jews and Christians are the trustees and witnesses of an ethic marked by the Ten Commandments, in the observance of which man finds his truth and freedom. To promote a common reflection and collaboration on this point is one of the great duties of the hour.