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What do we mean by Catholics “for Israel”?

Catholics for Israel is an apostolate faithful to the Magisterium, the living teaching office of the Church to whom Jesus has entrusted the task of authentically interpreting the word of God (DV 10). This means that official magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church, most especially chapter 4 of the declaration Nostra Aetate and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, form the core of our beliefs concerning Israel and the Jewish people. 

The Church and the Jewish People as Formulated in Nostra Aetate

Pope John Paul II and chief rabbi of Rome Elio Toaff For the first time in the history of the Church, the declaration Nostra Aetate (promulgated at the Second Vatican Council in 1965) laid a positive foundation for a theology of Israel and of the Jewish people.  This document affirmed:

  • the spiritual bond between Christians and the Jewish people.
  • that the Church received the Old Testament from the people of Israel.
  • that the Church “draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree (Israel) onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles” (Rom 11:17-24).
  • that Jesus the Messiah has by his cross “reconciled Jews and Gentiles, making both one in himself” (Eph 2:14-16).
  • that to the Jewish people belong “the sonship and the glory and the covenants and the law and the worship and the promises; theirs are the fathers and from them is the Messiah according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:4-5).
  • that the apostles and most of the early disciples were Jews.
  • that despite the fact that many Jews rejected Jesus and the Gospel, “God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers” and “does not repent of his gifts and his calling to them” (Rom 11:28-29).
  • that Jews and Christians will one day worship and serve the Lord together with one voice.
  • the importance of mutual respect and understanding as the fruit of common study and dialogue.
  • that although “the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.”  
  • that consequently, “the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures;” and so the Church “decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”
  • that it remains nonetheless “the burden of the Church's preaching to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God's all-embracing love and as the fountain from which every grace flows.”

Open Questions 

While Nostra Aetate has provided an essential foundation for a positive Catholic theology of Israel, it has but laid the most basic building blocks of this foundation, while leaving many questions open and unanswered.  Examples of such questions are:

  • Given that God’s gifts and calling to Israel are irrevocable, even while a majority of the Jewish people has to this day not accepted the Gospel, what exactly is Israel’s role in God’s plan of salvation since the coming of Jesus the Messiah?
  • Jesus’ great commission to the Church to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) remains intact, particularly to the Jewish people since the gospel is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the non-Jew” (Rom 1:16).  How should the Church faithfully express her missionary calling to the Jewish people in respect, sensitivity, and love, mindful of not repeating regrettable abuses that were committed in the past?
  • How should Jews who encounter Jesus the Messiah and find the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church continue to live and express their Jewish identity as Catholics Jews?
  • How should Catholics of Jewish origin relate to the Torah and to the observance of its commandments?
  • Given that God’s gifts and calling to Israel are irrevocable, one of the most central of these gifts is the land of Israel – a gift that was never revoked by the New Testament.  What is the significance of the land of Israel today and of the recent return of the Jewish people to the land of their forefathers?

Statement of Faith 

In light of Nostra Aetate and of the above questions, Catholics for Israel proposes the following statement of faith:

Concerning the Jewish people:

We DO:

  • affirm an unconditional love for the Jewish people, our “elder brothers in the faith.”
  • oppose anti-Semitism in all its forms, including under its currently common disguise of anti-Zionism.
  • call Christians to repent from past and present anti-Semitic acts, words, and attitudes.
  • affirm the irrevocable and permanent nature of God’s covenant with the Jewish people and oppose the false teaching of replacement theology (supersessionism), which claims that the Church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people.
  • affirm the Church’s faith that Israel’s calling, destiny and salvation can only be accomplished in union with Jesus, Messiah of Israel and King of the Jews, who was sent first and foremost to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mat 15:24) and wept over Jerusalem’s rejection of Him (Luke 19:41), and that union with Jesus is most fully attained in the Catholic Church.
  • affirm, therefore, the permanence of Church's missionary mandate, divinely ordained by the Word of God, to propose the Gospel of salvation “to the Jew first.”  
  • reject, therefore, the false teaching of dual-covenant theology, which would have the Jews attain salvation through the Old Covenant and observance of the Torah, while Gentiles attain salvation through Jesus the Messiah. Although "the Torah is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" (Rom 7:12), it remains nonetheless that “a man is not justified by the works of the Torah [law] but by faith in Jesus Christ… for by the works of the Torah no flesh shall be justified… for if righteousness comes through the Torah, then Christ died in vain” (Gal 2:16, 21). 
  • affirm that, since the Church is "the all-embracing means of salvation" in which alone "the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained" (UR 3), “Church and Judaism cannot then be seen as two parallel ways of salvation and the Church must witness to Christ as the Redeemer for all” (NJJ I.7).
  • affirm the need for establishing a Jewish-Catholic community where Catholic Jews will be able to live a genuinely Catholic life, in accordance with the teachings of Jesus the Messiah and of His Catholic Church, while at the same time remaining entirely faithful to the Torah and to Israel's cultural and religious heritage. This is in accordance with the first community of Jewish Christians who were "all zealous for the Torah" (Acts 21:20) - for Jesus did not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them (Mat 5:17-20).

We do NOT:

  • Pretend to love the Jewish people and support Israel as a cover-up for missionary activity.
  • Favor disrespectful or aggressive proselytizing of the Jewish people on the part of Christians.

Concerning the land and people of Israel:

We DO:

  • believe that God’s promise of the land of Israel to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was never revoked by Jesus and the New Covenant, and that this promise remains valid to this day.
  • believe that the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel in the last century bears prophetic significance, and we therefore affirm the theological plausibility of a moderate biblical Zionism.
  • believe that though the modern state of Israel is in itself a secular entity, it may well be a “first step” towards the final redemption of the Jewish people.
  • believe that the state of Israel has the right to defend itself against acts of terrorism carried out against it and its people; that it should, however, always exercise great caution and restraint in order to not harm innocent civilians.
  • encourage and promote reconciliation, peace and justice for all of the inhabitants of the Holy Land today.
  • call all inhabitants of Israel, Israelis and Palestinians, to repent and turn away from the grave evils that currently afflict Israeli and Palestinian society such as violence and hatred, corruption and dishonesty, discrimination and injustice, promiscuity, prostitution, pornography, abortion, and the increasing normalization of homosexuality.
  • Call all inhabitants of Israel, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims, to conversion to the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah, the prince of peace, through whom is found forgiveness, reconciliation with God and with one another, and eternal life.
  • Call all Christians in the Holy Land to greater faithfulness and unity in living and sharing the gospel of Jesus the Messiah.

We do NOT:

  • attribute a Messianic significance to the modern state of Israel in its present form.
  • advocate the rebuilding of the Temple and re-establishment of animal sacrifices.
  • support the ingathering of the Jewish people to the Holy Land in the eschatological hope of ushering in the battle of Armageddon.
  • necessarily agree with every political or military action carried out by the government of Israel.
  • support any form of injustice or discrimination towards anyone.
  • hold any anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian attitudes.

    See also: Why Catholics for Israel?

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