Nostra Aetate precursors
- Created: August 5, 1947
- Written by International Council of Christians and Jews
The following statement, produced by Christian participants at a conference of what would become the International Council of Christians and Jews, was one of the first statements following World War II in which Christians, with the advice and counsel of Jews, began to come to terms with the implications of the Shoah.
AN ADDRESS TO THE CHURCHES
SEELISBERG (Switzerland), 1947
We have recently witnessed an outburst of antisemitism which has led to the persecution and extermination of millions of Jews. In spite of the catastrophe which has overtaken both the persecuted and the persecutors, and which has revealed the extent of the Jewish problem in all its alarming gravity and urgency, antisemitism has lost none of its force, but threatens to extend to other regions, to poison the minds of Christians and to involve humanity more and more in a grave guilt with disastrous consequences.
The Christian Churches have indeed always affirmed the un-Christian character of antisemitism, as of all forms of racial hatred, but this has not sufficed to prevent the manifestation among Christians, in various forms, of an undiscriminating racial hatred of the Jews as a people.
This would have been impossible if all Christians had been true to the teaching of Jesus Christ on the mercy of God and love of one's neighbour. But this faithfulness should also involve clear-sighted willingness to avoid any presentation and conception of the Christian message which would support antisemitism under whatever form. We must recognise, unfortunately, that this vigilant willingness has often been lacking.
We therefore address ourselves to the Churches to draw their attention to this alarming situation. We have the firm hope that they will be concerned to show their members how to prevent any animosity towards the Jews which might arise from false, inadequate or mistaken presentations or conceptions of the teaching and preaching of the Christian doctrine, and how on the other hand to promote brotherly love towards the sorely-tried people of the old covenant.
Nothing would seem more calculated to contribute to this happy result than the following:
Remember that One God speaks to us all through the Old and the New Testaments.
Remember that Jesus was born of a Jewish mother of the seed of David and the people of Israel, and that His everlasting love and forgiveness embraces His own people and the whole world.
Remember that the first disciples, the apostles and the first martyrs were Jews.
Remember that the fundamental commandment of Christianity, to love God and one's neighbour, proclaimed already in the Old Testament and confirmed by Jesus, is binding upon both Christians and Jews in all human relationships, without any exception .
Avoid distorting or misrepresenting biblical or post-biblical Judaism with the object of extolling Christianity.
Avoid using the word Jews in the exclusive sense of the enemies of Jesus, and the words 'the enemies of Jesus' to designate the whole Jewish people.
Avoid presenting the Passion in such a way as to bring the odium of the killing of Jesus upon all Jews or upon Jews alone. It was only a section of the Jews in Jerusalem who demanded the death of Jesus, and the Christian message has always been that it was the sins of mankind which were exemplified by those Jews and the sins in which all men share that brought Christ to the Cross.
Avoid referring to the scriptural curses, or the cry of a raging mob: "His blood be upon us and our children,"without remembering that this cry should not count against the infinitely more weighty words of our Lord: "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."
Avoid promoting the superstitious notion that the Jewish people are reprobate, accursed, reserved for a destiny of suffering.
Avoid speaking of the Jews as if the first members of the Church had not been Jews.
We make the following practical suggestions:
The introduction or development in school-instruction and elsewhere, at each stage, of a more sympathetic and more profound study of biblical and post-biblical history of the Jewish people, as well as of the Jewish problem.
In particular the promotion of the spread of this knowledge by publications adapted to all classes of Christian people.
To ensure the correction of anything in Christian publications and above all in educational handbooks which would be in conflict with the above principles.
Our common endeavors are inspired by the spirit of the words of St. Paul in Romans xi, 28-29:
They are beloved for the fathers' sake. For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance.