- Created: August 12, 2002
- Written by USCCB Office of Communications
Says Targeting Jews for Conversion Not Acceptable
WASHINGTON (August 12, 2002) - Leaders of the Jewish and Roman Catholic communities in the United States, who have been meeting to discuss topics affecting Catholic-Jewish relations twice a year for more than two decades, made public today (August 12) a document entitled Reflections on Covenant and Mission.
Citing the growing respect for the Jewish tradition that has unfolded since the Second Vatican Council, and the deepening Catholic appreciation of the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people, the Catholic portion of the Reflections says that "campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church."
"This joint reflection marks a significant step forward in the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community in this country," said Cardinal William Keeler, the U.S. Bishops" Moderator for Catholic-Jewish relations. "Here one can see, perhaps more clearly than ever before, an essential compatibility, along with equally significant differences, between the Christian and Jewish understandings of God's call to both our peoples to witness to the Name of the One God to the world in harmony. This echoes the words of Pope John Paul II, praying that as Christians and Jews we may be 'a blessing to one another' so that, together, we may be "a blessing to the world.'" (Pope John Paul II, On the 50th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, April 6, 1993).
Rabbi Gilbert Rosenthal, Executive Director of the National Council of Synagogues, said: "The joint Catholic-Jewish statement on mission is yet another step in turning a new page in the often stormy relationship between the Jewish people and the Roman Catholic Church. Neither faith group believes that we should missionize among the other in order to save souls via conversion. Quite the contrary: we believe both faith groups are beloved of God and assured of His grace. The joint mission statement has articulated a new goal, namely the healing of a sick world and the imperative to repair the damage we humans have caused to God's creations. We believe we are partners in bringing blessings to all humankind for this is god's will."
Participants in the ongoing consultation are delegates of the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the National Council of Synagogues (NCS). The NCS represents the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. The Consultation is co-chaired by Cardinal Keeler and Rabbi Joel Zaiman of the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism and Rabbi Michael Signer of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.
The Reflections derive from a meeting which the BCEIA-NCS Consultation held in New York last March. Participants examined how the Jewish and Roman Catholic traditions currently understand the subjects of Covenant and Mission. Each delegation prepared reflections on the current state of the question in each community. The Consultation voted to issue its considerations publicly in order to encourage serious reflection on these matters by Jews and Catholics throughout the United States. The Roman Catholic and Jewish reflections are presented separately in the document.
The Roman Catholic reflections describe the growing respect for the Jewish tradition that has unfolded since the Second Vatican Council. "A deepening Catholic appreciation of the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people, together with a recognition of a divinely-given mission to Jews to witness to god's faithful love, lead to the conclusion that campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church," they state.
The Jewish reflections describe the mission of the Jews and the perfection of the world. "This mission is seen to have three aspects. First there are the obligations that arise as a result of the loving election of the Jewish people into a covenant with God. Second, there is a mission of witness to god's redeeming power in the world. Third, the Jewish people have a mission that is addressed to all human beings." The Jewish reflections conclude by urging Jews and Christians to articulate a common agenda to heal the world.
The NCS-BCEIA Consultation expressed concern about the continuing ignorance and caricatures of one another that still prevail in many segments of the Catholic and Jewish communities, and reaffirmed its commitment to deepen the dialogue and promote amity between these two communities in the United States.
The Dialogues have previously produced public statements on such issues as Children and the Environment and Acts of Religious Hatred.