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“The Vatican Against Israel – J’accuse” by Giulio Meotti: a Catholic Response

Meotti, The Vatican against IsraelGiulio Meotti launched his book The Vatican Against Israel – J’accuse in November 2013.  My initial response to the many untrue and exaggerated statements in it was that people will see through it and ignore it as it deserves.  However an Anglican Minister friend strongly encouraged me, as a Catholic Lay Leader, to research and respond to it.  Unfortunately I needed to buy it first and then review.  The book makes many unsubstantiated and unfair claims against the Catholic Church. I agree with Meotti on some things such as his highlighting of blatant anti-Semitism emanating from some Middle East Catholic Leaders which needs to be exposed.

Overall it is a poorly written book that can hurt Catholic/Jewish and Christian/Jewish relationships and hinder God’s purpose for reconciliation in the Body of Christ between Israel and the Gentiles.

Meotti seems to have a jaundiced view of the Roman Catholic Church (RC) and approached this book from that perspective.  He seems totally unaware of what the Holy Spirit has done in causing RC to repent of it’s former wrong attitudes to the Jews.

There are so many generalisations in this book which, in my opinion, are untrue. Let me take 5 of them:

1. Nostra Aetate (1965)

Because Nostra Aetate didn’t include a line that the Jews were not “a deicidal race” Meotti alleges that "the Vatican reiterated its position against Jews by stating: 'Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as repudiated or cursed by God.'"   How can this sentence be considered as reiterating the RC position against the Jews?  It was a pretty radical statement for the 1960’s – I wish it had gone further as Pope Benedict did in his Apostolic Exhortation of the 30th Sept 2010 "the Church of the Gentiles is like a wild olive shoot, grafted onto the good olive tree that is the people of the Covenant" (cf. Rom 11:17-24). In other words, we draw our nourishment from the same spiritual roots.” (Note 1)

    Nostra AetateNostra Aetate goes on to decry “hatred, persecutions and displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”  It stated categorically that responsibility for the death of Jesus “cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.”  (Note 2) Nostra Aetate represented a sea change in RC attitudes to the Jews and not a reiteration of a position against them.

    Later in the Book Meotti grudgingly acknowledges that Nostra Aetate was a step forward but writes that it “remains the only theological step forward toward Jews since the Gospels” which is untrue.

      There have been many theological steps forward since this 1965 document. This is well presented by the former Chief Rabbi of Ireland – David Rosen – at his address to a Catholic/Jewish Conference in Rome in 2005.  He stated that Nostra Aetate led to many other significant developments in RC/Jewish relationships and paved the way for RC to recognise the State of Israel. (Note 3)

      One example of the many forward steps since 1965 is that there have now been 22 meetings of  The International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC).  The ILC is the official forum for ongoing dialogue between the Vatican and a representative International Jewish Committee. The 22nd meeting of the ILC took place in Madrid, Spain, from 13-16 October, 2013.  It condemned the current rise of anti-Semitism and the growing phenomenon of the persecution of Christians.  (Note 4)

      2. Anti-Semitism

      Meotti alleges:“Today all the largest Catholic forums, most of the high ranking bishops and all of Arab Christianity, are immersed in a radical anti Israel rhetoric that resembles that of the 1930’s”   “Theological anti Zionism which represents a majority current in the Catholic Church, pursues a long term eliminationist policy”   “Despite the formal (diplomatic) agreement between Israel and the Vatican (Dec. 1993), the Vatican is still “at war” with the State of Israel when it deals with… global anti Semitism… retrograde Catholic anti Zionist theology

      These charges are patently untrue.  Vatican has made immense strides in combating anti Semitism.  As for RC adopting anti Zionist theology this does not stand up.  E.g. The agreed statement from the 18th International Catholic — Jewish Liaison Committee Meeting (Buenos Aires, July 2004) affirmed the total rejection of “anti-Semitism in all its forms, including anti-Zionism as a more recent manifestation of anti-Semitism.” (Note 5)

      If Meotti is correct, how could Pope John Paul 2 have repented of anti Semitism in his famous Prayer of Repentance that he placed in the Western Wall in Jerusalem? (Note 6)

      JPII-wall1Meotti had no basis for saying most of the high ranking bishops in RC are immersed in radical anti-Israel rhetoric.  In fact a very positive statement on Judaism is in the official Catechism of the Catholic Church:  “The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant.” (Note 7)

      In addition, awareness of the Catholic roots of anti-Semitism is being raised in Catholic circles in many countries.  E.g. in Ireland the main Catholic Publishing House – Veritas – published Healing the Past – Catholic Anti-Semitism: Roots and Redemption.  Bishop Donal Murray wrote in the forward:  “I hope that this book will help to raise awareness of the evil of prejudice and in particular the evil of anti-Semitism.” (Note 8)

      3. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

      Meotti wrote “The Christian clergy is fuelling anti-Jew hatred again using the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”  He then quotes Fr. Musalam, the head of the Catholic Church in Gaza as using “the Protocols to incite hatred against the Jews.” While this is appalling from a Palestinian “Christian” leader surely Meotti should also have stated that the Vatican has condemned the Protocols.

      Protocols of the Elders of ZionCardinal Walter Kasper, Head of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews in his Paper on Anti-Semitism: A Wound To Be Healed in 2003 (on the Vatican website) highlighted how the Protocols were an “anti Jewish libel” and contributed to amindset of “contempt and hatred for the Jews” that led to the Holocaust.

      Many other Catholics have condemned the Protocols; e.g. In Ireland, in the Catholic Herald newspaper (Mar 21, 2008), a Catholic Writer wrote that the Christian faith and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are incompatible. Any Christian that promotes them is not only breaking the 10 Commandments, but also makes a mockery of Jesus Christ and all that He stands for.  The Ten Commandments clearly state in Deuteronomy 5:20 “Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.”

      4. State of Israel

      State of IsraelMeotti writes “Within the Church there are growing numbers of leaders who dislike Israel because they believe that Jews are not entitled to any part of the Holy Land.”   “The problem is that the temporariness of the state of Israel is an idea shared by the largest part of the Catholic Church. And it is this idea that influences Vatican policy on the Middle East.”   Where is his basis for these allegations?  On the contrary, there is much evidence of affirmation of the God’s eternal Covenant with the Jewish people from many senior Catholic sources:

      • Rabbi David Rosen wrote “I believe that the Catholic Church, especially under Pope John Paul II, came to asignificant understanding of this centrality of the State of Israel for Jewry” (Note 3).
      • Pope John Paul II affirmed that the Jewish people “are called by God to a covenant which remains irrevocable (cf. Rom 11:29)”  (Note 9)
      • Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, a highly-respected preacher and teacher and currently the Preacher to the Papal Household,  affirmed the everlasting covenant with the Jewish people, writing: “We share with the Jews the Biblical certainty that God gave them the country of Canaan forever (Genesis 17:8, Isaiah 43:5, Jeremiah 32:22, Ezekiel 36:24, Amos 9:14). We know that the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).” (Note 10)
      • Prominent Catholic Cardinal from Austria - Cardinal Schoenborn – stated that “Christians should rejoice in Jews’ return to Israel as a fulfilment of biblical prophecy”.  He also said Pope John Paul II had himself declared the biblical commandment for Jews to live in Israel an everlasting covenant that remained valid today. (Note 11)
      • Pope Francis, in his first Encyclical in Nov 2013, affirmed the everlasting covenant with the Jews: “We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29).” (Note 12)

      5. Replacement Theology

      Meotti rightly highlights the appalling comments of Melkite Catholic Archbishop Elias Chacour of Haifa who stated "We do not believe anymore that the Jews are the Chosen People" and was vice president of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre, which has embraced Replacement Theology.  Thankfully, Chacour resigned as Archbishop in Jan 2014.   Meotti also rightly highlights how some Arab Catholic bishops have signed the Kairos document, into which Sabeel had a big input.   Meotti then goes on to strongly imply that RC has reverted to embracing Replacement Theology.  This is totally incorrect.

      Like Meotti, I too was shocked at the statement by Archbishop Cyril Boutros denying the continuing covenant status of the Jewish people at a press conference in the Vatican after the Middle Eastern bishops Synod.  However the Synod itself did not deny the election of the Jewish people.  Spokespersons for the Vatican disowned the Boutros statement, insisting that it was merely a “personal opinion”.  Boutros was actually denying the official teaching of the Catholic Church [that he is committed by his office to uphold] clearly expressed in the Declaration Nostra Aetate,  in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in numerous declarations by John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

      The official RC position on Replacement Theology is very clear.  Senior Vatican Cardinal Walter Kasper set it out  in 2003 in a major paper on “Anti-Semitism: A wound to be healed” that:

      • the Church does not replace Israel, but is grafted onto it
      • a complete break between the Church and the Synagogue is in contradiction to Sacred Scripture”
      • God did not abandon his Covenant with the Jews  (Note 13)

      It is worth noting that the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews in 1985 issued Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church. It stated that “The history of Israel did not end in 70 A.D. It continued, especially in a numerous Diaspora which allowed Israel to carry to the whole world a witness – often heroic – of its fidelity to the one God … while preserving the memory of the land of their forefathers at the hearts of their hope (Passover Seder)… The permanence of Israel (while so many ancient peoples have disappeared without trace) is a historic fact and a sign to be interpreted within God’s design. We must in any case rid ourselves of the traditional idea of a people punished, preserved as a living argument for Christian apologetic. It remains a chosen people, “the pure olive on which were grafted the branches of the wild olive which are the gentiles.”  Surely this is again one of many wonderful steps forward in Catholic Christian/Jewish relationships

      Prominent Catholic Theologians have rebuked Replacement Theology.  Eg. Dermot Lane of Ireland (Note 14) wrote: “God’s Covenant with the Jews has never been revoked.  This has profound theological significance… for Christian self-understanding… God’s covenant with Israel remains in place and therefore theories of supercessionism, substitution and replacement, which have been in existence since the second or third century, must now be put aside.”

      Finally, it is worth highlighting that many Catholics risked their lives to save Jewish people during World War 2.  To date 6,266 Poles have been awarded the title of Righteous among the Nations by the State of Israel – more than any other nation. I understand that these are nearly all Catholic Christians, including hundreds of Polish priests and nuns.

      I do agree with Meotti that many Palestinian Christians today feel they “have to speak out against the Israeli occupation, because if they don’t, their silence will be perceived as pro Israeli by the Muslims.” However it is so encouraging that there are Palestinian Christian leaders like Fr. Gabriel Nadaf and Naim Khoury courageously standing with Israel in spite of strong Muslim opposition.  There are also a significant number of Muslims in Israel and the West Bank who have become Christians in the last 7 years and pay a big price for coming out of Islam – we need to keep them in prayer.

      As I have demonstrated Meotti does a major injustice to the Catholic Church re. its relationships with the Jewish people and Israel.  It seems like he approached this book from a position of bias against RC – he admits in the book – “I don’t really believe that Catholicism has changed its spots and put 1700 years of anti Semitism behind it.”  Well I praise the Lord that RC has changed its spots and has and continues to repent for the sins of the past.  As Pope Francis has repeatedly said, “a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite.”

      Paddy Monaghan, Catholic Lay Leader, Ireland Feb. 2014


      Notes

      Note 1. Excerpts from Verbum Domini 30th Sept 2010 by Pope Benedict

      43. Having considered the close relationship between the New Testament and the Old, we now naturally turn to the special bond which that relationship has engendered between Christians and Jews, a bond that must never be overlooked. Pope John Paul II, speaking to Jews, called them “our ‘beloved brothers’ in the faith of Abraham, our Patriarch”. To acknowledge this fact is in no way to disregard the instances of discontinuity which the New Testament asserts with regard to the institutions of the Old Testament, much less the fulfilment of the Scriptures in the mystery of Jesus Christ, acknowledged as Messiah and Son of God. All the same, this profound and radical difference by no means implies mutual hostility. The example of Saint Paul (cf. Rom 9-11) shows on the contrary that “an attitude of respect, esteem and love for the Jewish people is the only truly Christian attitude in the present situation, which is a mysterious part of God’s wholly positive plan”.  Indeed, Saint Paul says of the Jews that: “as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers, for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable!” (Rom 11:28-29).

      Saint Paul also uses the lovely image of the olive tree to describe the very close relationship between Christians and Jews: the Church of the Gentiles is like a wild olive shoot, grafted onto the good olive tree that is the people of the Covenant (cf. Rom 11:17-24). In other words, we draw our nourishment from the same spiritual roots. We encounter one another as brothers and sisters who at certain moments in their history have had a tense relationship, but are now firmly committed to building bridges of lasting friendship.   As Pope John Paul II said on another occasion: “We have much in common. Together we can do much for peace, justice and for a more fraternal and more humane world”.

      I wish to state once more how much the Church values her dialogue with the Jews. Wherever it seems appropriate, it would be good to create opportunities for encounter and exchange in public as well as in private, and thus to promote growth in reciprocal knowledge, in mutual esteem and cooperation, also in the study of the sacred Scriptures. Back

      Note 2. Nostra Aetate

      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 has 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, and 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.”  Back

      Note 3. Nostra Aetate, 40 Years after Vatican II

      Extracts from Address by Rabbi David Rosen at Conference of Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with Jewry, Rome, 27th Oct, 2005

      • “One of the occasions on which I was privileged to meet with John Paul II was in Assisi in January 1993… In receiving me and my colleague, he declared “I have said, you (the Jewish People) are the beloved elder brother of the Church of the original Covenant never broken and never to be broken”.
      • The Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jewry has produced important documents.  In response to the establishment of this Commission, the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Relations (IJCIC) was established to represent World Jewry to the Holy See and it is currently my privilege to be President of this body.  These two bodies constitute the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee which has produced some dozen important joint statements on a wide spectrum of contemporary challenges reflecting what Nostra Aetate describes as our“shared patrimony”, without in any way minimizing regard and respect for the profound differences that make us two separate faith communities. This collaboration is the blessed and impressive fruit of Nostra Aetate.
      • I believe that the Catholic Church, especially under Pope John Paul II, came to asignificant understanding of this centrality of the State of Israel for Jewry and of course Pope Benedict XVI when he was President of the Pontifical Council for Doctrine of the Faith played a key role in this process.
      • The Pope’s meeting with the Chief Rabbis opened up the way for a remarkable development with the establishment of a permanent committee of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel for dialogue with the Holy See.  … The five bilateral meetings so far have exceeded expectations in terms of content and in the personal relationships that have been established.
      • Indeed practical cooperation has become a new hallmark of the International Jewish-Catholic Liaison Committee as we have sought to work together and support philanthropic and welfare initiatives
      • As the late Pope John Paul II put it in these now famous words: “As the children of Abraham we are called Christians and Jews to be a blessing to the world.  In order to be such, we must be first of all a blessing to one another.”
      • In conclusion, allow me to summarize that traditional Jewish blessing for the most special occasions and give thanks to the One Lord, Creator and Sovereign of the Universe who has preserved us in life so that we may reach this day, to praise Him for His Spiritmanifest in this historic transformation. Accordingly the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel was generally seen within our communities as both a blessing and the removal of an obstacle on the way paved by Nostra Aetate itself."  Back to Note 3 Back to Note 9

      Note 4. The International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC)

      • The ILC is the official forum for ongoing dialogue between the Vatican´s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC). The 22nd meeting of the ILC took place in Madrid, Spain, from 13-16 October, 2013, hosted by the Spanish Bishops´ Conference and theFederation of Jewish Communities of Spain. Jewish and Christian representatives from five continents attended the gathering. Ms. Betty Ehrenberg, Chair of  IJCIC and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, co-chaired the meeting.
      • Their joint statement “reaffirmed the unique relationship between Catholics and Jews based on a common spiritual legacy…The delegates examined the current rise of anti-Semitism, the growing phenomenon of the persecution of Christians in various parts of the world, and threats to religious freedom in many societies… We are deeply saddened to see God’s name desecrated by evil couched in religious terms….  Both Jews and Catholics condemn persecution on religious grounds….As Pope Francis has repeatedly said, “a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite.” …We urge that anti-Semitic teachings be eliminated from preaching and textbooks everywhere in the world. Similarly, any expression of anti-Christian sentiment is equally unacceptable….. As a new generation of Jewish and Catholic leaders arises, we underscore the profound ways that Nostra Aetate changed the relationship between Jews and Catholics. It is imperative that the next generation embrace these teachings and ensure that they reach every corner of the world.”  Back

      Note 5. 18th International Catholic – Jewish Liaison Committee Joint Statement (July  2004)

      “As we approach the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate – the ground-breaking declaration of the Second Vatican Council the consequence of which repudiated the deicide charge against Jews, reaffirmed the Jewish roots of Christianity and rejected anti-Semitism — we take note of the many positive changes within the Catholic Church with respect to her relationship with the Jewish People. These past forty years of our fraternal dialogue stand in stark contrast to almost two millennia of a “teaching of contempt” and all its painful consequences. We draw encouragement from the fruits of our collective strivings which include the recognition of the unique and unbroken covenantal relationship between God and the Jewish People and the total rejection of anti-Zionism as a more recent manifestation of anti-Semitism.”  Back

      Note 6. Pope John Paul II Prayer of Repentance

      “God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the Nations; we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who, in the course of history, have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant Pope John Paul II placed prayer of repentance in Western Wall in Jerusalem 26th March 2000.  It is now in Yad Vashem. Back

      Note 7.  Catechism of the Catholic Church – Re. Jewish people

      1. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, “the first to hear the Word of God.” The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, (Rom 9:4-5) “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” (Rom 11:29) (CCC 839).  
      2. The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus (Rom 11:20-26; Mt 23:39) (CCC 839).
      3. RC affirms the permanent validity of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) as source of Divine Revelation:  “The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value, for the Old Covenant has never been revoked”. (CCC 121).  “Christians venerate the Old Testament as true Word of God. The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void” (Marcionism). (CCC 123)  This means that the promises and end-time prophecies to Israel in the Old Testament, many of which have never been fulfilled, cannot be easily dismissed.  Back

      Note 8. “Healing the Past – Catholic Anti-Semitism: Roots and Redemption”

      The book “Healing the Past – Catholic Anti-Semitism: Roots and Redemption” by Ena Gray was launched in Ireland in 2009.  It was published by the main Catholic Publishing House in Ireland – Veritas.  Prominent Catholic Bishop – Donal Murray wrote the Forward and book was endorsed by another Catholic Bishop and the then Chief Rabbi – Dr. Jacob Pearlman.  The book was widely publicised in the main catholic newspaper – The Irish Catholic – on 30th April 2009.  Their heading was Anti-Semitism is ‘inexcusable’ by Bishop Donal Murray

      Bishop Donald Murray has described as “tragic and inexcusable” the behaviour of some Christians towards Jews.  In the prologue to a new book on Christian involvement in anti-Semitism, Dr Murray says: “The history of the relationship between Christians and Jews tells of tragic and inexcusable events and attitudes in which people betrayed the principles of their own Christian faith.”  ‘Those who participated in the many atrocities and injustices against Jewish people, and those who did not intervene when they could have done so, betrayed their own humanity. Many such events are documented in this book and they make sad reading,” he said.  Referring to Christians who refused to speak out during the Holocaust, he insists that “for Christians, this heavy burden of conscience of their brothers and sisters during the Second World War must be a call to penitence.”  Christians “must commit themselves to ensure that evil does not prevail over good as it did for millions of Jewish people,” Dr Murray writes.  He says: “I hope that this book will help to raise awareness of the evil of prejudice and in particular the evil of anti-Semitism.”   Back

      Note 9. Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation – Covenant with Abraham everlasting.

      “Christian/Jewish Roots & Dialogue:  As was already clear from the First Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops, and was reaffirmed in the latest Synod, there is need for acknowledgment of the common roots linking Christianity and the Jewish people, who are called by God to a covenant which remains irrevocable (cf. Rom 11:29) and has attained definitive fullness in Christ.   Consequently it is necessary to encourage dialogue with Judaism, knowing that it is fundamentally important for the self-knowledge of Christians and for the transcending of divisions between the Churches, and to work for the flowering of a new springtime in mutual relations. This demands that each ecclesial community engage, to the extent that circumstances permit, in dialogue and cooperation with believers of the Jewish religion. This engagement also implies that “acknowledgment be given to any part which the children of the Church have had in the growth and spread of anti-Semitism in history; forgiveness must be sought for this from God, and every effort must be made to favour encounters of reconciliation and of friendship with the sons of Israel”. (56)      It will likewise be appropriate to mention the many Christians who, sometimes at the cost of their lives, helped and saved, especially in times of persecution, these their “elder brethren”.(56)” (Extract from Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation – Jesus Christ Alive in His Church, 28th June, 2003)  Back

      Note 10. God gave them the land forever: Catholic Theologian Fr Raniero Cantalamessa

      “Together with this responsibility, there is another that concerns the present situation of Israel as a people and a state. Human and political judgements can be made on their present situation, as can judgements of theology and faith. There is a whole area of different opinions here. The unresolved problem of the Palestinians makes these political judgements more of a condemnation of Israel than of approval. But, as I have already mentioned, Christians cannot stop at these political or diplomatic judgements. There is a theological dimension to the problem, which only the Church can feel. We share with the Jews the Biblical certainty that God gave them the country of Canaan forever (Genesis 17:8, Isaiah 43:5, Jeremiah 32:22, Ezekiel 36:24, Amos 9:14). We know that the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).  Catholic Theologian Fr Raniero Cantalamessa and Preacher to Papal Household from his book “The Mystery of Christmas”.   Back

      Note 11. Jewish return to Israel a fulfillment of biblical prophecy – Cardinal Schoenborn, Apr 2005

      Archbishop of Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, part of a visiting Austrian delegation, made the remarks in an address Wednesday at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Post reported. Schoenborn said it was doctrinally important for Christians to recognize Jews’ connection to the “Holy Land” and Christians should rejoice in Jews’ return to Israel as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.  He also said Pope John Paul II had himself declared the biblical commandment for Jews to live in Israel an everlasting covenant that remained valid today. After asking, “What does Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] mean to us,” Schoenborn answered by stressing the doctrinal importance to Christians of not only recognizing Jews’ connection to the land, but also ensuring that Christian identification with the Jewish Bible not lead to a “usurpation” of Jewish uniqueness. Only once in human history did God take a country as an inheritance and give it to His chosen people,” Schoenborn said.  When a Palestinian priest asked Schoenborn if the creation of the modern state of Israel was not an expression of Europe’s guilt over the Holocaust, the cardinal said it was not. (Washington Post, Mar. 31 2005)  Back

      Note 12. Pope Francis – Nov2013 God’s Eternal Covenant with the Jews

      “247. We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). The Church, which shares with Jews an important part of the sacred Scriptures, looks upon the people of the covenant and their faith as one of the sacred roots of her own Christian identity (cf. Rom 11:16-18). As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion;nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thes 1:9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word.

      248. Dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus’ disciples. The friendship which has grown between us makes us bitterly and sincerely regret the terrible persecutions which they have endured, and continue to endure, especially those that have involved Christians.

      249. God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant and to bring forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word. For this reason, the Church also is enriched when she receives the values of Judaism. While it is true that certain Christian beliefs are unacceptable to Judaism, and that the Church cannot refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah, there exists as well a rich complementarity which allows us to read the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures together and to help one another to mine the riches of God’s word. We can also share many ethical convictions and a common concern for justice and the development of peoples.”  Back

      Extract from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium re RC Relations with Judaism

      Note 13. Cardinal Walter Kasper: Replacement Theology not Church teaching

      “The Old Testament, as well as those of the New Testament – agrees in witnessing that God did not abandon his Covenant with the Hebrew (or “Judaic”) people of the 12 tribes of Israel…. Consequently, as a “messianic people”, the Church does not replace Israel, but is grafted onto it, according to the Pauline doctrine, through adherence to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, who died and rose; and this link forms a spiritual bond that is radical, unique and insuppressible for Christians. Although the contrasting concept - of an Israel once (olim) pre-chosen but later rejected by God for ever and now replaced by the Church – may have had widespread dissemination for almost 20 centuries, it does not in reality represent a truth of the faith, as can be seen both in the ancient Creeds of the early Church and in the teaching of the most important Councils, especially of the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentiumn. 16; Dei Verbumnn. 14-16; Nostra Aetate, n. 4)…. The most recent document published by the Pontifical Biblical Commission on The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible (2001), after recognizing the “surprising strength of the spiritual bonds that united the Church of Christ to the Jewish people” (n. 85), concludes by noting that “in the past, the break between the Jewish people and the Church of Christ Jesus might at times have seemed complete in certain periods and in certain places. In the light of the Scriptures, this should never have happened, because a complete break between the Church and the Synagogue is in contradiction to Sacred Scripture”  Anti-Semitism: A wound to be healed by Cardinal Walter Kasper (2003), Head of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Oct 2003.  Back

      Note 14. Leading Irish Catholic Theologian – Covenant remains in place not replaced

      “The Unrevoked Covenant of God with Israel:

      1. During a visit by John Paul 11 to the synagogue in Mainz, Germany, he stated that God’s Covenant with the Jews “has never been revoked” (1980).  This statement, recognising the enduring existence and validity of the Jewish Covenant, has profound theological significance …for Christian self-understanding.
      2. God’s covenant with Israel remains in place and therefore theories of supercessionism, substitution and replacement, which have been in existence since the second or third century, must now be put aside.”

            “Summary: The covenant between God and the Jews remains in place and has not been substituted or replaced by the new covenant in Christ. Furthermore, in God’s plan of revelation, Israel has its own defining role to play.  These new perspectives are now anessential part of what it means to be Christian and Catholic in the 21st century. The theological fruits accruing from the Jewish-Christian dialogue for Catholics are significant and should be proclaimed. They include:

      1. A new appreciation of the Jewishness of Jesus and the impact of this on Christology
      2. A rediscovery of the Jewish roots of the Church and the importance of this for ecclesiology
      3. A new understanding of God’s unrevoked covenant with Israel and the challenges this poses for the proclamation of the uniqueness and universality of Jesus as Saviour.
      4. A re-centring of the identity of the Church within the living tradition of Israel
      5. An end to anti-Semitism, supersessionism and mission to convert Jews within the self–understanding of Christian identity.

      Extracts from “Stepping Stones to Other Religions” by Fr. Dermot Lane, Theologian and President of a Catholic Third Level Institute in Dublin, Mater Dei  

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