Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations
thought the enclosed article which the Centre for Jewish
Christian Relations has sent out might be interesting for
your magazine. I am Chairman of the Board of Trustees and
we have done a great deal of work for improving Christian
Jewish understanding at an academic level in Cambridge.
The Centre is very successful. We have today over 100 students
studying Jewish Christian text and working together in a
most harmonious manner.
developments in the Roman Catholic Church are sending out
the wrong signals, and friends of the Church are concerned.
particular worry is the doctrine of the Faiths declaration,
Dominus lesus: On the Unicity and Salvific Universality
of Jesus and the Church. The outward purpose of this declaration
is to offer a firm riposte to theologians who relativize
the Christian faith and the Roman Catholic Church. However,
it has been criticised by many involved in intra-faith as
well as inter-faith dialogue, because the tone of the document
is so grudging and because it represents a step in a concerted
attempt to overturn the dialogue of recent decades.
tone of Dominus lesus fails to reflect the deeper understanding
that has been achieved through dialogue over the last 30
wonder an alliance of Protestant churches criticised it
as ecumenically insensitive. It required the personal intervention
of Pope John Paul who emphasised the Catholic Churchs
commitment to improving ecumenical relations at a meeting
with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (which claim
a total membership of 75 million Christians in 106 countries).
The commitments of the Catholic Church to ecumenical dialogue
is irrevocable, he said in a welcome clarification.
declaration has appeared immediately after a series of events
which have depressed friends of the Roman Catholic Church.
Attempts to canonise Pius XII and the linking of beautification
of Pius IX with John XXIII have caused grave concern about
what is going on in the Vatican. The pairing of these two
Popes is clearly a balancing act between liberals and conservatives.
For many of us, Pius IX is remembered primarily for holding
out against modernity as well as acquiescing in the kidnapping
and forcible conversion of a Jewish child. Another worrying
development is the recent outburst by the Cardinal Biffi,
Archbishop of Bologna, about a Muslim "invasion"
fear that these events, whilst separate, represent a concerted
attempt to reverse the advances that emerged from Vatican
II. If such attitudes prevail, they will cause untold harm
not just to relations between the Roman Catholic Church
and other churches but also with Judaism and, more worryingly,
to relations with other major religions, sharpening the
anti-Christian fervour of some of their fundamentalists.
example, there has always been a tension between Christianity
and Islam because of the latters missionary emphasis
and Muslims are now more likely to take up a position of
conflict. Anti-Christian violence has in recent years broken
out in parts of Africa and Asia. This is not limited to
Muslim countries: even India (a country with history of
tolerance towards Jews and Christians) has seen outbreaks
of anti-Christian feeling. This was previously almost unheard
of, and the call for active missionary activity and evangelising
the religions of the world will surely increase the risk
of a recurrence of such explosions of feeling.
Dominus lesus does not discuss the Catholic-Jewish relations,
it clearly has important implications. Judaism is obviously
non-Christian, yet it is not a subset of "non-Christian
religions" either. It is in its own category but I
wonder how followers of other religions view this document?
How can Catholics involved in dialogue assert with integrity
that their dialogue partners are in a gravely deficient
declaration is not, as some have suggested, a helpful line
drawn in the sand. It may be that we are just witnessing
conservative figures in the Church battling for the Popes
ear during the twilight of this papacy; but some liberal
Catholic theologians fear that something far more sinister
is afoot: nothing less than a conspiracy to overturn Vatican
the last 40 years we have watched and welcomed the more
ecumenical approach adopted by the Church: the current Pope,
though a conservative, has taken massive strides to heal
the historic rift between Catholicism and Judaism. We have
grown used to a Catholic Church which spoke of its "deep
and mutual respect" for its brothers and sisters in
other Christian churches, let alone its Jewish "elder
the liberal end of the Catholic spectrum there is a deafening
silence. It would be interesting to know what Cardinal Cassidy
thinks about all this. The Popes recent journey to
Israel and the Palestinian Territories has demonstrated
his personal commitment to religious tolerance and understanding.
Can the same be said about the Curia?
dialogue between Catholics and Jews has deepened in recent
years and the relationship has matured. The desire to create
a sustained, positive relationship between us, the willingness
to engage in authentic dialogue from our long and complex
history, and the ability to give (and receive) criticism
is part of an ongoing process (and should not simply be
dismissed because it is a view which one partner does not
you for your letter and enclosure which will be considered
for the next issue of The Scribe.
Vaticans declaration is a retrograde step. As a matter
of fact I believe the trend should be in the opposite direction.
Judaism has been regarded as the mother religion of Christianity
and Islam, but I now believe that it is more correct to
call all three religions as sister religions. There are
elements both in Christianity and Islam that go far beyond
the beginnings of our rabbinical religion and are all together
on equal basis regarding our relationship.
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