Dialogika

Pope John Paul II

Address to Members of the Jewish Central Council of Cologne

Gentlemen, dear Brothers:

  1. I am filled with joy and gratitude for the chance to meet you again during my second pastoral visit to the Federal Republic of Germany. This meeting provides me with an opportunity to make special reference to the fact that today there are still Jewish communities in this country. The Vatican guidelines for a correct depiction of Jews and Jewry in the sermons and catechism of the Catholic Church [1985], which I highly recommend to all Catholics, call to mind Jewish history, the Diaspora, a phenomenon that has allowed Israel to bear what has often been heroic testimony out into the entire world of its faith­fulness to the One God [see VI, 25]. As early as antiquity, the Jews brought this witness of their faithfulness up to the Rhineland and established a strong and fertile culture.

  2. My dear brothers, you are preserving a valuable historical and spiritual legacy in your communities today, and you continue to develop it. Furthermore, your communities are particularly significant in view of the attempt of the National Socialists in this country to exterminate the Jews and their culture. The existence of your communities is evidence of the fact that God, who is "the fountain of life" [Ps. 36:9], and whom the psalmist praises as "Lord, Father and Master of my life" [Sir. 23:1], does not allow the power of death to speak the last word. May the one benevolent and merciful Father of life watch over your communities and bless them, especially during the times you are assembled together to hear his holy word.

  3. Today the Church is honoring a daughter of Israel who remained faithful, as a Jew, to the Jewish people, and, as a Catholic, to our crucified Lord Jesus Christ. Together with millions of fellow believers she endured humiliation and suffering culminating in the final brutal drama of extermination, the Shoah. In an act of heroic faith Edith Stein placed her life in the hands of a holy and just God, whose mysteries she had sought to understand better and to love throughout her entire life.

    May the day of her beatification be a day for all of us to join together in praising God, who has done marvelous works through his saints and exalted himself through the people of Israel. Let us pause in reverent silence to reflect on the terrible consequences which can arise from a denial of God and from collective racial hatred. In this connection we recall the suffering of many peoples in Europe in recent times, and we declare our commitment to a common effort on the part of all people of goodwill to establish a new "civilization of love" here in Europe, inspired by the highest Jewish and Christian ideals. At the same time we must speak out when necessary, not lose sight of our examples, and remain alert for all new forms of anti-Semitism, racism, and neo-pagan religious persecution. Such a joint effort would be the most precious gift Europe could give the world in its arduous effort to develop and attain justice.

  4. By virtue of the life she lived, the blessed Edith Stein reminds us all, Jews and Christians alike, of the call the Holy Scriptures: "You shall be holy because I am holy" [Lev. 11:45]. This summons to all of us also embraces a common responsibility to help build the "City of God," the city of God's peace. We spontaneously think of Jerusalem, the "City of Peace," of which the prophet Isaiah wrote: "Yes, the Lord shall comfort Zion and have pity on all her ruins; her deserts he shall make like Eden, her wasteland like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of song" [Isa. 51:3]. With this hope for peace we entreat the Lord to show us the fullness of his merciful peace.