I am writing to you in your capacity as President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. I have known for a long time of your deep interest in Catholic-Jewish relations. This was evident in the address you gave in 2005 at the annual conference of the ICCJ, held in Chicago.
In my role as President of the International Council of Christians and Jews, I would like to share with you a deep concern held by many of our members world-wide, with regard to the recent controversy surrounding the USCCB’s statement on the evangelization of Jews, as well as the recently approved change in the American adult catechism.
Beginning with the Second Vatican Council almost a half century ago, the Roman Catholic Church has, I believe, been a pioneer in the field of inter-religious dialogue and has provided the world with an admirable model of metanoia. Documents such as Nostra Aetate have encouraged people of faith in our belief that we can remain deeply committed to our own traditions, while making room for the Other, in a pluralistic world. Within the Jewish community, I can attest to the fact that the voices that have dissented from our deep involvement in inter-religious dialogue have stressed their belief that such dialogue is just a disguise for a continuing attempt to effect the conversion of Jews to Christianity. In the past, it may have been accomplished through force; today it is done in a more sophisticated and less violent fashion. We have consistently countered by stating that the Church has dropped its official efforts to convert Jews, through its recognition of the enduring nature of the Covenant between the Jewish people and God.
Under the leadership of Pope John the XXIII, and Pope John Paul II, of blessed memory, we all felt that a new era had begun in inter-religious relations.
I had the privilege of meeting Pope Benedict the XVI twice in the past year, first in the Vatican, and then here in Jerusalem. On both occasions, he seemed to express a belief in the importance of inter-religious dialogue, as a continuation of his predecessors’ activities. However, the recent statement by the USCCB seems to fly in the face of this understanding. It is unclear to me and many others where the continued existence of Judaism and the Jewish people fit into this new approach.
I would appreciate it very much if you could please clarify where the matter stands.
Dr. Deborah Weissman, Jerusalem
- Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory
- Reverend James Massa, Ph.D.
- Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews
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