The Vatican released a new text on Thursday reiterating the Church’s commitment to fighting anti-Semitism, playing down the idea of missionary efforts directed at Jews, and recalling the Jewish origins of Christianity.
Called “The Gifts and Calling of God Are Irrevocable,” the new document was presented in a Vatican press conference with two Vatican officials and two Jewish leaders.
It’s a fairly routine statement, the most direct assertions of which are largely repetitions of points already made in Nostrae Aetate or elsewhere, while on other matters it acknowledges, but doesn’t resolve, questions that still produce heartburn in the relationship.....
What the document actually illustrates is that there are times when routine is itself revolutionary, because it shows just how far we’ve come. Fifty years ago, to call Jewish/Catholic relations “strained” would have been putting things mildly. There was little formal theological exchange, feelings on both sides were dominated by the weight of history, and politically the Church and world Judaism were at loggerheads over Israel. When Pope Paul VI visited the Holy Land in 1964, he never even uttered the word “Israel” in public. If you can’t talk about one of the central concerns for the other party in the conversation, dialogue probably isn’t going anywhere fast.
Today, Catholic/Jewish conversation and friendship have become so commonplace as to seem utterly par for the course. One proof of the point is that the new Vatican document isn’t even the most important declaration on the subject to appear in the month of December. That distinction belongs to a text called “To Do the Will of Our Father in Heaven: Toward a Partnership between Jews and Christians,” signed by more than 25 prominent Orthodox rabbis in Israel, the United States, and Europe.
It’s the first time in more than 2,000 years that a group of Orthodox rabbis, as opposed to clergy from the more liberal Reform branch of Judaism, have issued a public statement advocating partnership with Christians and appreciating the religious value of Christianity.
“This proclamation’s breakthrough is that influential Orthodox rabbis across all centers of Jewish life have finally acknowledged that Christianity and Judaism are no longer engaged in a theological duel to the death, and that Christianity and Judaism have much in common spiritually and practically,” said Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn, academic director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation in Israel.
“Given our toxic history,” Korn said, “this is unprecedented in Orthodoxy.”