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Don't Let Politics Undermine Catholic-Jewish Progress



Political tensions and conflict in the Middle East should not be allowed to undermine the extraordinary progress that has been made in relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people since the Second Vatican Council. That appeal was at the heart of an address to Catholic bishops gathered on the third day of the Synod here in the Vatican by Rabbi David Rosen, advisor to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and International Director of Inter-religious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee.

Describing the new relationship between Catholics and Jews as “a blessed transformation of our times”, the Rabbi said both Jews and Catholics in countries around the world are often ignorant of the profound changes that have taken place. He said while the political realities in the Middle East do not always make it easy for Christian leaders in the region to acknowledge or embrace relations with Jews, it is crucial that they are committed to increased dialogue and cooperation with ‘their elder brothers and sisters in the faith’ for the benefit of all people in the region.

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In his words to the Synod fathers, Rabbi Rosen said while centuries of the ‘teaching of contempt towards Jews and Judaism’ cannot be eliminated overnight – or even over 45 years – he noted that Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem in the year 2000 had a ‘stunning and overwhelming’ effect on changing perceptions within Israeli society. Also the influx of Christians, both from the Soviet Union and more recently migrant workers from the developing world have ‘doubled the demographic make up of Christianity in Israel’, increasingly the familiarity in his country with contemporary face of the Churches. In Israel, he added, ‘there are also literally dozens of bodies promoting inter-religious encounter, dialogue and studies, and the Christian presence there is highly significant’.
However Rabbi Rosen noted the plight of Christians in the Palestinian territories is very different, since they are caught up in the independence struggle and ‘often bear the brunt of security measures which the Jewish State feels obliged to maintain in order to protect its own citizenry against continuous violence’. It is only right and proper, he said, for Palestinian Christians to express their distress and their hopes regarding the situation there. But he said ‘it is regrettable that such expressions have not always been in consonance with the letter and spirit of the Magisterium concerning the relationship to Jews and Judaism’.




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