Dialogika Resources

Orientations for Catholic-Jewish Dialogue

  1. After twenty centuries of co-existence which lately were marked by the events in Europe preceding and accompanying the Second World War, a new awareness of the origins and history of both Judaism and Christianity demonstrates the need for reconciliation between Jews and Christians. This reconciliation must take the form of dialogue, inspired by a healthy desire for knowledge of one another, together with mutual understanding.

  2. It is indispensable for dialogue that Catholics should strive to learn by what essential traits the Jews define themselves, that is to say, as a people clearly defined by religious and ethnic elements.

  3. The first constitutive element of the Jewish people is its religion, which in no way authorizes Catholics to envisage them as if they were simply one of the many religions in the world today. It was in fact through the Jewish people that faith in the one true God, that is to say, monotheism, has entered into human history.

  4. It should be noted, on the other hand, that according to biblical revelation, God himself constituted the Hebrews as a people. The Lord did this after having made a covenant with them (cf. Gen 17:7; Exod 24:1-8). We are indebted to the Jewish people for the five books of the Law, the Prophets and the other sacred books which make up the Hebrew Scriptures that have been adopted by Christians as an integral part of the Bible.

  5. Judaism cannot be considered a purely social and historical reality or a left-over from a past which no longer exists. We must take into account the vitality of the Jewish people which has continued throughout the centuries to the present. St. Paul bears witness that the Jews have a zeal for God (Rom 10:2); that God has not rejected his people (Rom 11: 1ff); he has not withdrawn the blessing given to the chosen people (Rom 9:8). St. Paul teaches also that the Gentiles, like a wild olive shoot, have been grafted onto the true olive tree which is Israel (Rom 11:16-19); Israel continues to play an important role in the history of salvation, a role which will end in the fulfillment of the plan of God (Rom 11:11,15,23).

  6. It is thus possible for us to state that all forms of antisemitism must be condemned. Every unfavorable word and expression must be erased from Christian speech. All campaigns of physical or moral violence must cease. The Jews must not be considered a deicide people. The fact that a small number of Jews asked Pilate for Jesus’ death does not implicate the Jewish people as such. In the final analysis, Christ died for the sins of all humanity. Christian love, moreover, which embraces all persons without distinction, in imitation of the Father’s love (Matt 5:44-48), should likewise embrace the Jewish people and seek to under­stand their history and aspirations.

  7. Unfavorable judgments with regard to the Jews must be avoided, particularly in catechetical teaching and in the liturgy. It is desirable that courses in Catholic doctrinal formation, in addition to liturgical celebrations, should emphasize those elements common to Jews and to Christians. It should be pointed out, for example, that the New Testament cannot be understood without the Old Testament. The Christian feasts of Easter and Pentecost, as well as liturgical prayers, the Psalms especially, originated in Jewish tradition.

  8. A contrast must not be made between Judaism and Christianity, claiming, for example, that Judaism is a religion of fear while Christianity is one of love. We find, in fact, in the holy books of Israel the origins of that expression of great love which exists between God and humanity (Deut 6:4; 7:6-9; Ps 73-139; Hos 11; Jer 31:2ff.; 19-22; 33:6-9).

  9. It is fitting to recall as well that the Lord Jesus, his holy Mother, the apostles and the first Christian communities were of the race of Abraham. The roots of Christianity are in the people of Israel.

  10. In regard to the land of Israel, it is well to remember that, as the fruit of his promise, God gave the ancient land of Canaan in which the Jews lived to Abraham and his descendants. The Roman occupation and successive invasions of the land of Israel resulted in harsh trials for the people who were dispersed among foreign nations. We must recognize the rights of the Jews to a calm political existence in their country of origin, without letting that create injustice or violence for other peoples. For the Jewish people these rights became a reality in the existence of the State of Israel.

  11. Finally, we should emphasize the eschatological expectation which is the hope of Jews and of Christians, in spite of their different ways of interpretation. Both are awaiting the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God; for Christians, this has already begun with the coming of Jesus Christ, while Jews are still awaiting the coming of the Messiah. At all events, this eschatological perspective awakens as much in Jews as in Christians the awareness of being on the march, like the people who came out of Egypt, searching for a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exod 3:8).