Summary of Proposed Council Statement on the Jews

This is the summary of the proposed ecumenical council declaration on the Jews released by the council press office.

The History of This Declaration

In the 63rd general congregation of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council (Nov. 8, 1963) there was distributed to the council Fathers a text covering 42 lines, which was presented as chapter 4 of the schema on ecumenism, and having as its title: “The Attitude of Catholics toward non-Christians and Particularly toward the Jews.”

After a brief mention of other monotheistic religions, the chapter then went on to treat especially of the Jews, who have particular relationships with the Church of Christ. At the same time a communique from the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity explained that this chapter, which had been drawn up two years earlier by the secretariat, was exclusively religious in content and was inspired by solely spiritual considerations. Hence, the secretariat vigorously opposed any attempt to give the document a political interpretation.

The council began the discussion of the schema on ecumenism in the 69th general congregation (Nov. 18, 1963), and on the following day Cardinal Bea, in the 70th general congregation, read a four-page report to clarify the significance, the content, and the scope of the chapter on the Jews in the schema on ecumenism.

In the general debate on the schema some misgivings were voiced on the chapter on the Jews. Some felt that the chapter was out of place in the treatment of ecumenism strictly so-called, while others observed that if the council is to treat of the Jews, then it must likewise speak of the Moslems and of the other non-Christian religions. The council Fathers from the Arab world were particularly vigorous in affirming the inopportuneness of a chapter on the Jews in view of the particularly tense circumstances now prevailing.

In the 72nd general congregation (Nov. 21, 1963) the first three chapters of the schema on ecumenism were approved by a vote of 1,966 to 86. In the 79th and last general congregation, Cardinal Bea gave assurance to the council Fathers that although the chapter on the Jews had not been brought up for discussion, there was question only of a temporary postponement, and in the meantime the chapter would be carefully reworked.

At the beginning of the plenary meeting of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (Feb. 27-March 7, 1964) the proposals on the chapter on the Jews presented by the Fathers either in the oral discussion in the previous session or in writing, filled a booklet of 72 pages. As the result of its deliberations the secretariat reached the following conclusions: (1) the schema on ecumenism strictly so-called will, as is logical, discuss only the question of unity among Christians; (2) the revised chapter on the Jews will be retained both for internal reasons and for its importance and because of the universal expectation which it has aroused; (3) because of the special bonds uniting the people of the Old Covenant with the Church, the document on the Jews will be an appendix to the text on ecumenism, but not a chapter, because, strictly speaking, ecumenism deals only with relationships between Christians; (4) this same appendix will touch on the relationships of Christians with non-Christian religions, with special emphasis on Islamism.

The Declaration on the Jews and Non-Christians

The new text is composed of approximately 70 lines unaccompanied by notes. The text is two pages long. It is subdivided into three paragraphs, treating of the common religious patrimony of Christians and Jews, of the universal Fatherhood of God, and of the inadmissibility of any and all discrimination.

  1. The Common Religious Patrimony of Christians and Jews

The Church of Christ recognizes gladly that, according to the divine mystery of salvation, the beginnings of its Faith and of its election are rooted in the patriarchs and the prophets. As a new creation of Christ and the people of the New Covenant, the Church can never forget that she is a continuation of that people with which God in His ineffable mercy established the Old Covenant and to which He entrusted the Revelation contained in the books of the Old Testament. Nor does the Church forget that Christ according to the flesh was born of the Hebrew people, as also the Mother of Christ and the apostles, the foundation and the columns of the Church. The Church also bears in mind the words of the Apostle Paul to the Hebrews “who have the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants” (Rom. 9, 4).

Because of this heritage passed on to the Christians by the Jewish people, the council aims to encourage and to recommend mutual knowledge of one another, which will be deepened through theological research and in fraternal dialogue, and in addition the council deplores and condemns all injustices ever committed anywhere against human beings, and particularly the hatred and persecutions against the Jews.

It is also to be remembered that the union of the Hebrew people with the Church is part of Christian hope.

According to the doctrine of the Apostle Paul (Rom. 11, 25), the Church awaits in faith and with desire the entrance of this people into the fullness of the people of God restored by Christ.

Consequently, let all take care in catechetical teaching, in preaching and in everyday conversation not to present the Hebrew people as a rejected people, and also take care neither to say nor to do anything which may alienate minds against the Jews. In addition, all should be careful not to attribute to the Jews of our time what was committed during the Passion of Christ.

  1. God is the Father of all men.

This truth, already taught by the Old Testament, was confirmed in a new light by Christ. We cannot proclaim or invoke God as the Father of all men if we maintain an attitude of hostility in regard to other men created according to the image of God. Whoever expects pardon from God must be disposed to pardon his neighbor, and whoever does not love his brother whom he sees, cannot boast of loving God who is invisible.

In our spirit of love toward our brethren, we wish to consider with great respect the opinions and doctrines which, although they differ from our own in many respects, nevertheless in many elements reflect a ray of that light which illumines all men. Thus we seek to have an understanding also of the Moslems who adore one God, personal, and the rewarder of the actions of this life, and who with their religious sense are in some degree close to us.

  1. Condemnation of any kind of discrimination.

Hence there disappears any foundation for the theory which established between man and man, between people and people, differences in human dignity or in the rights flowing there from.

All honest men, and Christians particularly, must refrain from any act of discrimination or of harassment for reasons of race, color, social condition or religion. Christians are ardently summoned by the council, as far as lies in their power, to live in peace with all men, to love all men, even those who may one day be their enemies, in order that they may all be sons of our Father in Heaven, who makes His sun to rise on all men without distinction.

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