October 16, 2015

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Oct. 25 Jewish-Catholic dialogue to feature Archbishop Tobin, Rabbi Cook

There are many historical moments upon which turn the relationship between Christians and Jews. One such moment came during the pontificate of Pius XI.

As anti-Semitism grew in Germany under the Nazis, Pope Pius reflected upon what was taking place, and to a group of pilgrims to Rome in 1938, he said:

“Mark well that in the Catholic Mass, Abraham is our patriarch and forefather. Anti-Semitism is incompatible with the lofty thought which that fact expresses. It is a movement with which we Christians can have nothing to do. No, no, I say to you it is impossible for a Christian to take part in anti-Semitism. It is inadmissible. Through Christ and in Christ, we are the spiritual progeny of Abraham. Spiritually, we are all Semites”(Holmes, Papacy in the Modern World, p. 116).

Twenty-seven years later, the Second Vatican Council—a monumental historical moment—gave to the Church and the world “Nostra Aetate” (“Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions”).

“Nostra Aetate” opened up 50 years of dialogue among Christians and Jews. Across the country and the world, we are celebrating this half-century of dialogue.

Historical moments are not isolated. They develop into significance, often through painful lurches and stumbling.

And historical moments are effective. They extend into the future, rich in wisdom and unanswered questions.

Paragraph 4 of “Nostra Aetate” directly addresses the Christian and Jewish relationship. This weighty paragraph in its earliest versions during the Council was a draft of a stand-alone document.

However, given the nearly two millennia of contentious history between Jews and Christians—and that history’s effect upon many of the Council Fathers—what began as a solo document in 1960 was worked and reworked. By 1965, it became a part of the broader document we have which addresses the Church’s relationship with non-Christian religions.

Paragraph 4 makes five sober statements of great meaning and power.

  • There is a special bond that links the Church with the Jewish People.
  • The Jewish People have a special position even after Christ (cf. Rom 9:4-5; Rom 11:28-29).
  • There is to be a fostering of mutual understanding and respect between Christians and Jews (especially through biblical and theological studies, and dialogue).
  • The death of Christ, an historical fact in which some Jews and Jewish leaders participated, “cannot be blamed upon all the Jews then living, without distinction, nor upon the Jews of today.”
  • The Church rejects all forms of anti-Semitism. (Vatican II: “Assessments and Perspectives,” Volume 3, pp. 282ff)

The truths of paragraph 4, the struggle to bring them to the fore, and their effects yet unfolding, are going to be celebrated in a very special moment on Oct. 25.

At 6 p.m. at the Arthur M. Glick Jewish Community Center (JCC) Auditorium, 6701 Hoover Road in Indianapolis, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin will enter into a conversation with Rabbi Michael J. Cook, a professor of Judeo-Christian Studies at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. The conversation is sponsored by the Indiana Catholic Conference and the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council. (Related story: Conversation to mark 50 years of Jewish-Catholic dialogue)

The conversation, and the dessert reception to follow, is open to the public.

This conversation will be a living example of the wonder of dialogue. And we can witness it! I hope that the JCC auditorium is overflowing with eager listeners.

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism. He is also dean of the Terre Haute deanery and pastor of St. Patrick and St. Margaret Mary parishes, both in Terre Haute. E-mail him at rginther@saintpat.org)

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