Christian–Jewish reconciliation

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Christian−Jewish reconciliation refers to the efforts that are being made to improve understanding and acceptance by Christians of the Jewish people and Judaism and to eliminate Christian antisemitism and anti-Judaism. There has been significant progress in reconciliation in recent years, in particular by the Catholic Church, but also by other Christian groups.

Background[edit]

In response to the Holocaust (though earlier accounts of reconciliation exist) and many other instances of the persecution of Jews by Christians throughout history, many Christian theologians, religious historians and educators have sought to improve understanding of Judaism and Jewish religious practices by Christians.

There are a number of sensitive issues that continue to separate the two communities of faith.

Proselytism[edit]

Attempts by Christians to convert Jews to Christianity is one of the most important issues. Groups such as the Anti-Defamation League have described attempts to convert Jews as anti-semitic and have directly compared those efforts to the Holocaust.[1]

A number of Progressive Christian denominations have publicly declared that they will no longer proselytize Jews.[2][3] Other mainline Christian and conservative Christian churches have said they will continue their efforts to evangelize among Jews, holding that this is not anti-semitic.[4]

A 2008 survey of American Christians by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that a large majority - over 60 per cent - of most denominations believe that Jews will receive eternal life after death alongside Christians.[5]

The Catholic Church[edit]

The Second Vatican Council, commonly known as Vatican II, which closed in 1965, was instrumental in producing the document called Nostra Aetate, which read in part:

True, 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. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ. Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.

To further the goal of reconciliation, the Catholic Church in 1971 established an internal International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations. (This Committee is not a part of the Church's Magisterium.) After the committee met on May 4, 2001, Church officials stated that they would change the way Judaism is dealt with in Catholic seminaries and schools.

This new understanding of the relationship between Christians and Jews is reflected in the revised liturgy of Good Friday in a particular way. The Good Friday Prayer of the Roman Rite had Catholics praying that the "perfidious Jews" might be converted to "the truth." The ancient meaning of the Latin word "perfidis" in that context was "unbelieving", yet the English cognate "perfidious" had, over the centuries, gradually acquired the meaning of "treacherous." In order to eliminate misunderstanding on this point, Pope Pius XII ordered in 1955 that, in Catholic liturgical books, the Latin word "perfidis" be more correctly translated as "unbelieving", ensuring that the prayer be understood in its original sense: praying for the Jews who remained "unbelieving" concerning the Messiah. Indeed, the same adjective was used in many of the ancient rituals for receiving non-Christian converts into the Catholic Church.

Owing to the enduring potential for confusion and misunderstanding because of the divergence of English usage from the original Latin meaning, Pope John XXIII ordered that the Latin adjective "perfidis" be dropped from the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews; in 1960 he ordered it removed from all rituals for the reception of converts. See: Time Magazine August 15 1960. The current prayer of the Roman Liturgy for Good Friday prays for "the Jewish people, first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of His name and in faithfulness to His covenant."

The term "traditionalist Catholics" often is used to apply to Catholic Christians who are particularly devoted to practicing the ancient traditions of the Church; yet there are also groups calling themselves "traditionalist Catholics" that either reject many of the changes made since Vatican II, or regard Vatican II as an invalid Council, or who broke away entirely from the Catholic Church after Vatican II. Some of these so-called traditionalist Catholics believe that the Pope at the time, and all Popes since, have led the majority of Catholic clergy and laity into heresy. They view interfaith dialogue with Jews as unnecessary and potentially leading to a "watering-down" of the Catholic faith. In the view of some traditionalist Catholics, Jews are believed to be damned unless they convert to Christianity. This, of course, is not the view of all who identify themselves as "traditional".

Protestant churches[edit]

In its Driebergen Declaration (1991), the European Lutheran Commission on the Church and the Jewish People rejected the traditional Christian “teaching of contempt” towards Jews and Judaism, and in particular, the anti-Jewish writings of Martin Luther, and called for the reformation of church practice in the light of these insights.

Christian Scholars Group[edit]

The Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations is a group of 22 Christian scholars, theologians, historians and clergy from six Christian Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church, which works to "develop more adequate Christian theologies of the church's relationship to Judaism and the Jewish people."

Orthodox Christianity[edit]

Orthodox Christianity has a better history of relations between its adherents and the Jewish community than Roman Catholic or Protestant Christianity. The Orthodox Christian attitude to the Jewish people is seen in a 16th-century encyclical written by Ecumenical Patriarch Metrophanes III (1520–1580) to the Greek Orthodox in Crete (1568), following reports that Jews were being mistreated.

Joint efforts[edit]

The International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ) is an umbrella organisation of 38 national Jewish-Christian dialogue organisations worldwide, governed according to the principles of the Ten Points of the Seelisberg Conference, which was held in 1947 to explore the relationship basis of Christianity and antisemitism.

In 1993 the ICCJ published "Jews and Christians in Search of a Common Religious Basis for Contributing Towards a Better World." This document "contains both separate Jewish perspectives and Christian perspectives concerning mutual communication and cooperation as well as a joint view of a common religious basis for Jews and Christians to work together for a better world....These considerations are not "the official theological, philosophical nor ideological underpinnings of the ICCJ and its member organisations, but are an invitation to consider what our work is all about. They have no authority other than their intrinsic world..."

Jews and Christians in Search of a Common Religious Basis for Contributing Towards a Better World

The ICCJ runs a website, Jewish-Christian Relations, "which is devoted to fostering mutual respect and understanding between Christians and Jews around the world."

Jewish-Christian Relations

According to their website, "Founded in 1987 by an interfaith coalition of laity and clergy, the Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies offers a variety of educational programs that highlight the distinctiveness of the Jewish and Christian traditions and confront the dangerous misunderstandings that have evolved in our two communities."

The Center for Catholic Jewish Studies

Another important initiative to promote joint initiatives between Jews and Christians was realized October 27, 2002, with the establishment and approval of the bylaws of the Council of Centers of Jewish-Christian Relations (CCJR). The Council is an association of centers and institutes in the United States and Canada devoted to enhancing mutual understanding between Jews and Christians. Although most of these centers or institutes are located in the United States, there are also affiliate members from Europe and Israel. Representatives from major Christian and Jewish agencies and religious bodies in the United States are also members.

The Council of Centers of Jewish-Christian Relations
The Council of Centers of Jewish-Christian Relations New Site

Jewish responses[edit]

The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia article on Gentile: Gentiles May Not Be Taught the Torah[6] notes the following Jewish-Christian reconciliation:

R. Emden, in a remarkable apology for Christianity contained in his appendix to "Seder 'Olam,"[7] gives it as his opinion that the original intention of Jesus, and especially of Paul, was to convert only the Gentiles to the seven moral laws of Noah and to let the Jews follow the Mosaic law — which explains the apparent contradictions in the New Testament regarding the laws of Moses and the Sabbath.

Robert Gordis, a Conservative rabbi, wrote an essay on Ground Rules for a Christian Jewish Dialogue; through his writings and similar writings of other rabbis in all Jewish denominations, one form or another of these rules eventually became more or less accepted by all parties engaging in interfaith dialogue.[8]

Rabbis from all the non-Orthodox movements of Judaism became involved in inter-faith theological dialogue with a number of Christian churches. Conservative Jews and Reform Jews now commonly engage in inter-faith theological dialogue; a small number of Modern Orthodox rabbis engage in such dialogue as well.

Most Orthodox rabbis do not engage in such dialogue. The predominant position of Orthodoxy on this issue is based on the position of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik; he held that Judaism and Christianity are "two faith communities (which are) intrinsically antithetic". In his view "the language of faith of a particular community is totally incomprehensible to the man of a different faith community. Hence the confrontation should occur not at a theological, but at a mundane human level... the great encounter between man and God is a holy, personal and private affair, incomprehensible to the outsider..." As such, he ruled that theological dialogue between Judaism and Christianity was not possible.

However, Rabbi Soloveitchik advocated closer ties between the Jewish and Christian communities. He held that communication between Jews and Christians was not merely permissible, but "desirable and even essential" on non-theological issues such as war and peace, the war on poverty, the struggle for people to gain freedom, issues of morality and civil rights, and to work together against the perceived threat of secularism. As a result of his ruling, Orthodox Jewish groups did not cooperate in interfaith discussions between the Catholic Church and Judaism, nor did they participate in the later interfaith dialogues between Protestant Christian groups and the Jewish community.

Modern papal views[edit]

Pope John Paul II made special effort to improve relations between Christianity (Catholicism in particular) and Jews and is often seen as a major figure in opening up dialogue between the Catholic and Jewish communities. He was the first pope to make an official visit to a synagogue, and made official apologies on behalf of the Catholic Church for wrongdoing against Jews throughout history. His theology often posed a dual covenant quality, and referred to Judaism as "the older brother" of Christianity.

Pope Benedict XVI has expressed very similar views to those of some Orthodox rabbis, saying in a 2004 book with Marcello Pera that inter-cultural dialogue could often be positive, but that theological dialogue was practically impossible and not always desirable.

National Council of Synagogues[edit]

The National Council of Synagogues (NCS) is a partnership of the non-Orthodox branches of Judaism. (Orthodox Jews have been invited to join, but Orthodox leaders have ruled that an Orthodox rabbi may not work with non-Orthodox rabbis as a matter of religious principle.[citation needed]) This group deals with interfaith issues, and meets regularly with the representatives of the United States Catholic Bishops Conference, the National Council of Churches of Christ and various other denominations and religions. Their goal is to foster religious conversation and dialogue in the spirit of religious pluralism.

Today[edit]

Today the Jewish leaders are having connection with the Christian leaders.

Reflections on Covenant and Mission is a statement developed jointly by the NCS and the U.S. Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Dabru Emet[edit]

Recently, more than 220 rabbis from all branches of Judaism signed a document called Dabru Emet ("Speak the Truth") that has since been used in Jewish education programs across the U.S.

Spanish reconciliation[edit]

On 16 December 1968, Spain formally revoked the Alhambra Decree, the 1492 edict expelling Jews from Spain.[9]

The Spanish government has actively pursued a policy of reconciliation with the descendants of its expelled Jews. In 1992, in a ceremony marking the 500th anniversary of the Edict of Expulsion, King Juan Carlos (wearing a skullcap) prayed alongside Israeli president Chaim Herzog and members of the Jewish community in the Beth Yaacov Synagogue (Madrid, Spain). The King said that 'Sefarad (the Hebrew name for Spain) is no longer nostalgia, nor a place where Jews should feel as if at home, because Hispano-Jews are home in Spain. What matters is the desire to analyse and project the past in regards to our future.'[10]

As of November 2012, Sephardic Jews have been given the right to automatic Spanish nationality without the requirement of residence in Spain. Prior to November 2012, Sephardic Jews already had the right to obtain Spanish citizenship after a reduced residency period of two years (versus ten years for foreigners). While their citizenship is being processed, Sephardic Jews will be entitled to the consular protection of the Kingdom of Spain.[11] This makes Spain the only nation aside from Israel that currently grants automatic citizenship to the descendants of Jews expelled during the European medieval evictions. Today, the number of Jews in Spain is estimated at 50,000.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links and references[edit]