The Catholic bishops of the United States have appointed a 10-man commission to establish formal contacts with the American Jewish community.
Headed by Bishop Francis P. Leipzig of Baker, Ore., the body is a subcommission coming within the general scope of the U.S. Bishops’ Commission for Ecumenical Affairs, set up last November with headquarters in Washington. That commission is headed by Lawrence Cardinal Shehan of Baltimore.
The announcement of the new subcommission, in addition to several already established or planned for relations with various religious bodies in the U.S., was made during the U.S. bishops’ press panel session of Oct. 1 by its secretary, Msgr. George G. Higgins, director of the social action department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Washington.
Bishop Leipzig, who was also present, told newsmen that informal meetings have already been held with Jews in America. But he said that until now there has been nothing definite either in the makeup of the subcommission or its mode of operation. He said he hopes it will have its first meeting in Washington shortly after the council closes.
Msgr. Higgins explained that the overall purpose will be to carry out the injunction of the council document on the Church’s relations with non-Christians in its section dealing with Jews. The text of the document, already approved in principle last session and scheduled for final voting Oct. 14-15, had been distributed to the council Fathers the day before and a summary of the text was made available to the press.
In this document, according to the summary, one paragraph states that “since the spiritual heritage common to Christians and Jews is so great, the ecumenical council wants to foster and recommend a mutual knowledge and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.”
Msgr. Higgins said it will be the purpose of the subcommission to “discover ways to further this ideal.” He said the group will not sponsor encounters with the Jewish community itself, but rather will encourage other groups to do so. The subcommission will provide a clearinghouse for ideas and coordination of efforts, he said.
As of now, the subcommission is composed of the following:
Bishop [Francis P.] Leipzig [of Baker, Ore.]
Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher, director of the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University, Newark, N.J.
Father Raymond Bosler, editor of the Criterion, Indianapolis.
Father Gerald F. Van Ackeren, S.J., of St. Mary’s College, Kans.
Father Edward H. Flannery, editor of the Providence Visitor, Providence, R.I.
Father Roland Murphy, O. Carm., of the Catholic University of America.
Msgr. Francis J. Lally, editor of the Pilot, Boston.
Msgr. Daniel Cantwell of the Catholic Council on Working Life, Chicago.
Msgr. Mark J. Hurley, vice chancellor of the archdiocese of San Francisco.
Father Edward Duff, S.J., of Holy Cross College, Worcester, Mass.
Father Elmo L. Romagosa, director of the New Orleans bureau of information.
Father Donald Campion, S.J., New York, of America magazine.
Father John B. Sheerin, C.S.P., New York, editor of the Catholic World.
Msgr. Higgins said every effort will be made to enlarge the subcommission with as many knowledgeable people as possible. “It is a foregone conclusion that laymen, women and nuns will be included in this enlargement,” he said.
Commenting in his own name rather than in that of the subcommission, Msgr. Higgins said he thought one of the main problems to be faced is “how to establish meaningful contact with the whole Jewish community without offending some.” Referring to various groups within Judaism which are not in agreement, he said, “I hope we won’t get caught in this internal but very understandable difficulty of Judaism.”