Kurt Cardinal Koch

Dialogika Resources

A Rich Common Heritage: Where is the Jewish-Catholic Dialogue Today?

This is an unofficial translation of a guest lecture delivered to the Theological Faculty of Trier on January 26, 2023. Original German text courtesy of Katholische Nachrichten-Agentur.


The Relationship between the Church and Israel in Nostra Aetate

“The Jewish religion is not something ‘extrinsic’ for us, but is in a certain way ‘intrinsic’ to our own religion. We have a relationship with Judaism as with no other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, one could say, our elder brothers.”2 With these impressive and compelling words, which Pope John Paul II expressed on the occasion of his visit to the Roman synagogue on April 13, 1986, he declared his deep conviction that the relationship to the covenant people of Israel is part of the inner self-understanding of the Catholic Church and consequently the Church could not understand itself at all without reference to Judaism.

One could not express the new view of Judaism more adequately, introduced by the Second Vatican Council with its declaration on the relationship of the Church to the non-Christian religions, Nostra Aetate, whose Article 4 on Judaism begins with the foundational sentence: “As the sacred synod searches into the mystery of the Church, it remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham’s stock.’’

a) An obligatory yes to the common heritage

With this biblically-based reflection on the mystery and mission of the Church, Nostra Aetate  emphasizes salvation history community that exists between Judaism and Christianity. This perspective means that the Church as the New People of God must not be understood as the abolition or replacement of Israel as the Old People of God, but as its fulfillment. The same applies to the relationship between the New and the Old Covenant, as Cardinal Walter Kasper rightly stressed: “For Christians, the New Covenant is not the replacement but the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. Both are related to each other in a relationship of promise or anticipation and fulfillment.”3

In order to revitalize the biblical and, above all, the Pauline view of the relationship between Jews and Christians, the conciliar declaration first and foremost evokes the Jewish roots of Christian faith and in doing so explicitly refers to the Pauline image of the “root of the good olive tree, into which the wild shoots of the Gentiles are grafted.” With this image the declaration emphasizes that the Church will receive the revelation of the Old Testament through that “people with whom God out of inexpressible  mercy established the Old Covenant.” This expressive image, used by Paul in the 11th chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, represents for him the decisive key to the relationship between Israel and the Church of Jesus Christ, and thus both unity and difference between the two communities in the light of faith to consider: ‘God’s whole history with man is like an olive tree, with a holy root and cut branches artificially grafted in this way.”4

While the declaration Nostra Aetate  recalls the roots of the Church in Israel, it affirms in a very positive way the “common spiritual heritage” of Jews and Christians. With this “awareness of the heritage that it (i.e., the church) has in common with the Jews,” the actual meaning of the Council’s declaration becomes clear and the fundamental new beginning that the Second Vatican Council made possible in the relationship between Catholics and Jews is concretized. Nostra Aetate is therefore primarily a strictly religious and theoretical document. For the Council did not simply deal with purely practical or pragmatic matters, but addressed the question of Jewish-Catholic relations on the basis of solid biblical foundations. Or, to put it in the words of Cardinal Augustin Bea, who was commissioned to draft the conciliar declaration: Nostra Aetate was intended to bring “these truths about the Jews, expounded by the apostle (i.e., Paul) and are presented and contained in the deposit of the faith, with great clarity to those who believe in Christ.”5

b) A categorical no to antisemitism

In this biblical-theological light, specifically ‘moved by the Gospel’s spiritual love,’ Nostra Aetate  also condemns antisemitic behavior as reprehensible, more precisely “all hatred, persecution, displays of antisemitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.” With its resolute “yes” to the “common spiritual heritage” of Judaism and Christianity, the conciliar declaration also contains a categorical “no” to all forms of antisemitism. This reveals one of the decisive driving forces that led to the drafting of Nostra Aetate and to the change in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people that it brought about. This painful occasion lay behind the necessary historical processing of the catastrophe of the Shoah, which the National Socialists had planned with industrial perfection, and who implemented the mass murder of the Jews in Europe. Cardinal Augustin Bea pointed out this important driving force in the Council’s assembly with the clear words: “The problem of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people, which is almost two thousand years old —a problem as old as Christianity itself—has become more acute, above all due to the cruel extermination of millions of Jews by the Nazi regime, and therefore demanded the attention of the Second Vatican Council.”6

In view of the all-time low of National Socialist hatred and the persecution of the Jews in European history, we Christians must frankly deplore that it was only the unprecedented crime of the Shoah that was able to bring about a real change in thinking. Above all, we Christians must lament that the National Socialist persecution of Jews did not arouse in us that compassion born of shared pain that we all had many reasons for. To name just one, albeit significant, motive: Adolf Hitler hated Christianity just as much as he hated Judaism, and he suspected Christianity, especially in its Catholic form, as being the Trojan horse of Judaism in Christianity. This is clearly visible in the published diaries of Goebbels, in which he wrote about Hitler, saying: “The Fuhrer is deeply religious, but entirely anti-Christian. He sees in Christianity a symptom of decline, a branch of the Jewish race, an absurdity that he will gradually uproot in all areas. He hates Christianity, which has transformed the free, intact, ancient temple into a gloomy cathedral, with a crucified Christ contorted in pain.”7 These words clearly show that the Shoah was the horrible nadir of a godless, anti-Christian and neo-pagan ideology that must be judged as wanting to destroy not only Judaism but also the Jewish heritage in Christianity, as Pope Benedict XVI pointed out during his visit to the Auschwitz/Birkenau extermination camp in 2006: “With the destruction Israel, with the Shoah, the root on which the Christian faith is based should ultimately be uprooted and finally replaced by the new, self-made faith in the rule of man, the powerful.”8

When we consider this tragic fateful connection between antisemitism and anti-Christianism, we Christians must acknowledge with deep shame that Hitler, with his combined rejection of Judaism and Christianity, obviously had a better grasp of the true nature of Christianity and its inner kinship with Judaism than so many Christians themselves. We Christians must confess that the Christian resistance against the boundless brutality of racist-based National Socialism did not show the clarity and breadth that one could and should rightly have expected.

We Christians have every reason to diligently examine our co-responsibility for these horrible developments. To give an honest answer, the church must confess that an effective Christian theological anti-Judaism has for centuries fueled widespread antipathy against the Jews and that an ancient anti-Jewish legacy carved itself into the souls of many Christians.9 This onerous heritage found its special expression in the condemnation of the Jews as murderers of God, and subsequently in the assumption that with the church as the New People of God, the Old Testament people of God had been overwhelmed in the history of salvation and made into something outdated, which in the splendor of the New has passed away— just as one is no longer dependent on the light of the moon once the sun has risen.10

This debilitating anti-Jewish burden was certainly not the cause of the spread of National Socialist Jew-hatred, but it was a requisite mentality that also weakened the resistance of Christians to the brutality of National Socialist terror. In view of the fatal effects of the anti-Jewish burden in the Christian tradition, the Catholic Church feels obliged to overcome its traditional view of a salvation-historical inheritance of Judaism and to reflect on the Jewish roots of Christianity, how this is realized in the development of the above-mentioned Christian “theology after Auschwitz”11 in all its different variants and in the development of a “Christian theology of Judaism.”12

2. Shining light on the new beginning of Catholic-Jewish dialogue

Against this broader background, it is clear that the conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate can be appreciated as an important turning point and as the promising new beginning of a fruitful dialogue between the Catholic Church and Judaism. It was certainly preceded by other important developments and at the same time prepared for it. The International Emergency Conference on Anti-Semitism, which took place in August 1947 in Seelisberg, Switzerland, is particularly worth remembering. More than 60 people, Jews and Christians from various denominations, participated in order to think intently about how to eradicate the dreadful phenomenon of antisemitism.13 The perspectives for a new and purified relationship between Jews and Christians that have come to be known as the “Ten Points of Seelisberg” also found their way into the Conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate with a clear and definitive “No” to antisemitism.14

The fact that the conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate may at least have been partly caused by a Jewish initiative, namely the meeting between Pope John XXIII and the Jewish historian Jules Isaac on June 13, 1960, deserves special mention. He gave the Pope a memorandum with the urgent request for a new perspective on the relationship between the Church and Judaism.15 Only a few months after this conversation, Pope John XXIII, for whom reconciliation with the Jewish people was something close to his heart, gave the German Jesuit Cardinal Augustin Bea the task of having the Secretariat for Christian Unity, which he headed, prepare a statement about Judaism for the Council.16

Arab Council Fathers protested against the proposed text, and particularly Council Fathers who lived in the Middle East, objected that such a declaration should not only speak about Judaism, but also contain a word about Islam. Other Council Fathers suggested that all non-Christian religions should be considered in a conciliar declaration. Because of these objections and because of new difficulties that arose, which made it necessary to revise the text again, it was decided to place the schema on the Jews in the broader context of expounding the attitude of the Church towards non-Christian religions, more precisely as the fourth Article in the Council’s declaration Nostra Aetate. Shortly before the end of the Council session on November 28, 1965 [sic], this declaration was adopted by the Council Fathers with a virtual moral majority, an impressive 96 percent approval, with 2,221 votes in favor, 88 against, and 2 abstentions, and it was promulgated by Pope Paul VI.

This placement of the statements about the Jewish people in the conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate could easily give the misimpression that this was a problematic compromise, since we Christians do not regard Judaism simply as one of the many non-Christian religions and, as a result, the relationship between Christianity and Judaism must not be leveled out merely as a special variant of the interreligious dialogue; for in this way the unmistakable character of this relationship could no longer be consequential.17 However, if one considers the very difficult and complicated history of the origins of the declaration Nostra Aetate before and during the Second Vatican Council,18 one may rightly judge that its fourth article, which deals with the relationship of the Catholic Church to Judaism, although the shortest, is one of the most important documents of the Council.

The fourth article is not only the starting point, but also forms the heart of the whole declaration Nostra Aetate. The fourth article signifies a fundamental turning point in the relationship between the Catholic Church and Judaism, and with it, in the relationship between the Church and Israel, as the then Council Peritus Joseph Ratzinger judged, “a new page in the book of mutual relation” ’has been opened.19 The epochal importance of the fourth article is undoubtedly that for the first time in history an Ecumenical Council spoke of Judaism in a way that was as explicit as it was positive.

3. The Favorable reception of Nostra Aetate  after Vatican II

Already during the composition of the declaration, Cardinal Augustin Bea emphasized in his Relatio, delivered in the Council assembly on September 25, 1964, that the content of the declaration certainly belongs to those topics “in which public opinion so-called shows the greatest interest,” and he concluded from this that “many will judge the Council well or badly after the approval or disapproval of this document.”20 For the interreligious dialogue in general, but also and above all for the Jewish-Catholic dialogue in particular—because this conciliar declaration is rightly regarded as a founding document and as a reliable compass for reconciliation between Christians and Jews and for the Jewish-Christian dialogue—[Nostra Aetate] has lost none of its topicality to this day.

a) The Reception of Nostra Aetate in Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

This is to the credit especially of the popes after the Second Vatican Council, for whom it was important that the promising perspectives based on Nostra Aetate be received, continued, and deepened in the church, and who are therefore regarded as heroes of the Catholic-Jewish dialogue. At this point, of course, there is not enough room to detail the contributions of the individual popes to the  Jewish-Catholic dialogue.21 However, attention should be drawn to the fact that Pope Paul VI in 1974 founded the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, assigned it organizationally to what was then known as the Secretariat for Christian Unity,  and entrusted it with the task of accompanying and promoting religious dialogue with Judaism. As a result of this theological responsibility, a number of documents have so far been published, which are committed to the reception of Nostra Aetate and which should be briefly recalled.22

In the same year that the Vatican Commission was founded, it published its first official document, with the express approval of Pope Paul VI, entitled “Guidelines and Instructions for the Implementation of the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate, Article 4.”23 As the title indicates, this document contains a comprehensive program for Jewish-Christian rapprochement as laid down in Nostra Aetate. Eleven years later, on June 24, 1985, the Commission presented a second document, entitled: “Notes for a correct portrayal of Jews and Judaism in the sermons and in the catechesis of the Catholic Church.”24 In this document, the focus is on the effort for a historically and theologically competent treatment of Judaism in the essential life of the Catholic Church.

The third document of the Commission was primarily suggested by the Jewish side and was published on March 16, 1998, and dealt with the Shoah: “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah.”25 This document expressed the harsh but justified judgment that the balance of the two-thousand-year history of the relationship between Christians and Jews must be deemed “rather negative.” Furthermore, the attitude of Christians towards the antisemitism of National Socialism is considered and the duty of Christians to remember the human catastrophe of the Shoah is emphasized. At the beginning of this document, Pope John Paul II expressed in a letter his hope that the document could help ‘‘heal the wounds of misunderstanding and injustice in the past’’ and would “enable memory to play its necessary part in the process of shaping a future in which the unspeakable outrage of the Shoah will never again be possible.”  

The Holy See Commission published its latest document on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of Nostra Aetate in 2015, entitled: “‘For the Gifts and Calling of God Are Irrevocable’(Rom 11:29): Reflections on theological questions in Catholic-Jewish relations on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate (No. 4).”26 This document gratefully looks back on everything that has happened in Catholic-Jewish relations in the past decades, and new impulses are given for further theological reflection. The document is guided by the conviction that the time is ripe in the Jewish-Catholic relationship to continue to work on open theological questions such as the meaning of Revelation of God, the relationship between the old and the new covenant, the relationship between the universality of Jesus Christ for salvation and the still valid covenant of God with Israel, and the church’s mandate to evangelize in relation to Judaism.

Finally, reference should be made to a document published not by the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, but by the Pontifical Biblical Commission on May 24, 2001, entitled: “The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible.”27 From an exegetical-theological point of view, this is undoubtedly the most important document in the Catholic-Jewish discourse. It considers the Holy Scriptures of the Jewish people to be “a fundamental part of the Christian Bible,” discusses the basic themes of the Holy Scriptures of the Jewish people and their reception in faith in Jesus Christ, and describes the manner in which the Jews are portrayed in the New Testament, which are examined in detail. In the foreword, the then Prefect of the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, advocated a “new respect for the Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament,” to the effect that “the Jewish reading of the Bible is a possible reading that is in continuity with the sacred writings of the Jews of the Second Temple period and is analogous to the Christian doctrine which has developed in parallel,” and that consequently Christians “can learn much from the Jewish practice practiced over 2,000 years of exegesis,” and that of course we Christians can also hope “that the Jews can benefit from the research of Christian exegesis.”

The documents briefly presented here are certainly important and meritorious. However, they cannot replace personal encounters and institutionalized dialogues, rather they presuppose such. Above all, there are two such institutionalized dialogues globally that are organized and carried out by the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. One dialogue has been underway since 1970 with the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), to which almost all large Jewish organizations belong and that represents the official dialogue partner on the Jewish side. Regular conferences are held with it to deepen current relations between Jews and Catholics, which are the responsibility of the so-called International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC).

The second institutionalized dialogue is being conducted with the chief rabbinate of Israel in Jerusalem and can be seen as the fruit of Pope John Paul II’s encounter with the Ashkenazi and Sephardic chief rabbis during his trip to Israel in 2000. Since 2002, conferences have been held regularly, alternately in Jerusalem and Rome, in which almost exclusively rabbis take part on the Jewish side and bishops and priests on the Catholic side. This composition makes it easier to keep the various topics discussed—such as the sanctity of life, the place of the family in religion and society, freedom of religion, the ecological challenge, or the ethical challenge of euthanasia—always illuminated from a religious point of view. Above all, this dialogue with the chief rabbinate made possible a further opening of Orthodox Judaism for dialogue with the Catholic Church globally.

b) Jewish appreciation of the dialogue with the Catholic Church

Looking back at the two institutionalized dialogues, one can gratefully observe that many positive things have happened in recent decades, not only good cooperation, but also an intensive friendship between Jews and Catholics has developed, and that the bonds of friendship have been forged in the meantime that have proven to be strong. A fine testimony to this are substantial documents in which the Jewish side comments on the Catholic-Jewish dialogue and in which the Jewish perspectives are introduced.

A first document was written by more liberal Jews in the United States of America and was published as early as 2000 with the title “Dabru Emet” (“Speak Truth”).28 This text was followed in 2015 by the document “To Do the Will of Our Father in Heaven: Towards a Partnership between Jews and Christians.” This declaration represents a private initiative by individual rabbis and primarily reflects the concern of deepening the partnership between the two faith communities that had grown so far. It sees itself as a Jewish response to the 50-year effort of the Catholic Church to bring about reconciliation between Christians and Jews since the Second Vatican Council and recognizes Christianity as a “monotheistic religion” willed by God, which “has led non-Jews to the God of Israel.”29

“Between Jerusalem and Rome” is the auspicious title of the latest statement on the Jewish-Catholic dialogue, which was published in 2017 by Orthodox Jewish organizations, more precisely by the “Conference of European Rabbis,” the “Rabbinical Council of America,” and the “Dialogue Commission of the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem.”30 This document positively acknowledges the steps taken by the Catholic Church towards the renewal and deepening of the Jewish-Catholic dialogue since the Second Vatican Council, and unfolds Jewish expectations and perspectives in this dialogue. From the point of view of Orthodox Judaism, this statement responds in particular to the conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate, which is recognized as a turning point in the relationship between the Catholic Church and Judaism, and to the document issued by the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews in 2015 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate with the title “For the Gifts and Calling of God Are Irrevocable (Rom 11:29).” Representatives of the three mentioned Orthodox-Jewish institutions were able to present this document in a private audience on August 31, 2017 to Pope Francis, who thoroughly appreciated the great importance of this document for the Jewish-Catholic dialogue.31

The three documents provide responses to the Jewish-Christian dialogue from the Jewish side, the importance of which can be appreciated in that they ushered in a “new phase in the Jewish-Christian dialogue.”32 When reading these documents, especially the last one entitled “Between Jerusalem and Rome,” it is noticeable that the Jewish side does not place so much emphasis on the religious-theological dimensions in the Jewish-Catholic dialogue, but rather on cultural and ethical, social, and political concerns in the hope of good cooperation and a common defense against antisemitism. This focus is understandable, since in various European countries, especially in Germany, a frightening increase in antisemitic trends must be observed. In this regard, Jews should know that in the Catholic Church they have a reliable partner in the fight against the scourge of antisemitism, since Pope Francis never tires of emphasizing that it is impossible to be a Christian and an antisemite at the same time.

The reluctance to engage in dialogue about religious-theological topics may, of course, have deeper reasons on the Jewish side, which we Christians have to take seriously. In the third point of “Between Jerusalem and Rome,” which deals with the rapprochement of Orthodox Judaism with the Catholic Church, it is clearly emphasized that the respective beliefs must be mutually respected: “The doctrinal differences are essential and can not to be discussed or negotiated.” This is based on the conviction that the Jewish-Catholic dialogue is about mutual respect for each other’s beliefs and in such a way that peaceful cooperation between Jews and Christians can become possible. In his speech at the bestowal of the document “Between Jerusalem and Rome,” Pope Francis sensitively took this concern into account by emphasizing that the Orthodox-Jewish declaration “does not conceal the theological differences between our two faith traditions” and that Jews and Catholics “despite fundamental theological differences” share a common substance of faith.33

Behind this issue, there could still be another concern or latent fear on the Jewish side that the dialogue offered by the Catholic Church was ultimately driven by at least hidden conversionary intentions and was guided by the will to proselytize the Jewish people. However, the Catholic Church knows that it is obliged to perceive the missionary task towards Jews in a different way than towards people with other religions and ideological convictions, and therefore to refrain in principle from a specific institutionalized missionary work that would target Jews.34 The main reason for this difference was what Emeritus Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI expressed with these words: “Mission to all peoples and cultures is the task that Christ left to his people. The point is to make the ‘unknown God’ (Acts 17:23) known to people. Man has a right to get to know God, because only those who know God can live human existence properly. That is why the missionary mandate is universal—with one exception: a mission to the Jews was not planned and was not necessary simply because they were the only people who knew the ‘unknown God.’ To Israel, therefore, there was not and still is not a mission, but rather the dialogue about whether Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, the Logos, who is expected by Israel—according to the promises made to his own people—and, unknowingly, by all of humanity. Resuming this dialogue is the task that the present time sets before us.”35

4. Open religious-theological questions between Jews and Christians

This differentiated view also makes it clear that not all the religious-theological questions that arise in the encounter between Christianity and Judaism have been resolved. To name just one example, the fact that great efforts in theological reflection are still needed is clearly shown in the project published a few years ago, Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: New Explorations of Theological Interrelationships, which was achieved by an informally convened international group of Christian theologians at the suggestion of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, and to which individual Jewish experts and friends were invited as critical observers.36 This Jewish-Christian discourse was certainly meritorious. Nevertheless, Cardinal Walter Kasper realistically stated in the foreword that the conversation has by no means come to an end: “We are only at the beginning of a new beginning. Many exegetical, historical, and systematic questions still remain open, and there will probably always be such questions.”37

Among the open questions, the most basic is undoubtedly how, on the one hand, the belief of the Jews, which we Christians affirm and share, that the covenant that God made with Israel will never be broken because of God’s unwavering loyalty to his people but remains valid, and on the other hand, the Christian conviction of faith in the newness of the New Covenant given to us in Jesus Christ, can be held together in a theologically coherent way so that the inner unity between the Old and New Covenant is preserved and both Jews as well as Christians do not feel offended, but know that their beliefs are taken seriously.38

This once again makes it clear that the neuralgic point in the Jewish-Catholic dialogue is and remains the perception of the figure of Jesus Christ,39 as the Catholic theologian Helmut Hoping recently pointed out again: “Judaism from a Christian perspective has among the religions a special position, since the God of Jesus is none other than the God of Israel. Christians and Jews share common scriptures. The Jew Jesus of Nazareth inseparably connects Christianity with Judaism, while the confession of him as Messiah and Son of God separates them.”40 With these words, Hoping in his Christology with the programmatic title Jesus from Galilee: Messiah and Son of God expressed both the unity and the difference between Christianity and Judaism. Because on the one hand, the fact that Jesus Christ is a Jew is a key element that unites Jews and Christians, which is what the preeminent Protestant theologian Karl Barth observed when he insisted that the Word of God did not simply become flesh, “humiliated and suffering human beings in any generality,” but rather “Jewish flesh.”41 In this sense one can and must speak of a necessary “homecoming of Jesus into Judaism.”42 On the other hand, Christians cannot only see Jesus as a special representative of the Jewish people; for them he is also the Messiah and the Son of God. The homecoming of Jesus to Judaism cannot therefore happen at the price that the church’s christology and soteriology is rewritten and undone.43

This is an extremely complex question, which is not simply an academic question, but is also and always a very serious and existential question about human salvation, so that special sensitivity is required here. Christians and Jews are therefore challenged to learn from each other precisely where they differ most profoundly, as Pope Benedict XVI said on the occasion of his visit to the Cologne synagogue: “This dialogue, if it is to be sincere, must not gloss over or underestimate the existing differences: in those areas in which, due to our profound convictions in faith, we diverge, and indeed precisely in those areas, we need to show respect and love for one another.”44

In this basic stance, however, from the Christian point of view the Jewish-Catholic dialogue must also, and above all, include religious and theological dimensions. For us Christians, Judaism is the religion that is closest to us; and we are connected to the Jewish people primarily for religious reasons, as Cardinal Augustine Bea expressed during the Council when he said: ”… As far as the Jewish people are concerned, it must be emphasized again and again with all clarity: Let it not be a political question at all, but a purely religious one. We are not talking about Zionism here, nor about the political state of Israel, but about the adherents of the religion of Moses, wherever they live in the world.”45 In this sense, the conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate is primarily understood as a religious and theological document.

For this reason, the dialogue with Judaism is also of particular importance for Christianity, because one must perceive the first division in the history of Christianity as the separation of church and synagogue. The Catholic theologian Erich Przywara described this division as the “primal rift” and derived from it the incompleteness of catholicity, which later continued to deepen: “The rift between the Eastern Church and the Western Church, the rift between the Roman Church and the Reformation pluriverse (to which countless churches and sects belong) derive from the original rift between Judaism (of the non-Christian Jews) and Christianity (of the ‘pagans’ in the language of Paul’s letters).” And since, in the eyes of Przywara, this primordial rift has had an effect and continued in the inner-Christian rifts, he was also convinced that the inner-Christian rifts would only end with the end of the Jewish-Christian rift, more precisely, “when in the ‘second coming’ of Christ, Christ hands over the kingdom to God the Father, and that God be all in all’ 1 Cor 15: 28).”46

The Jewish-Christian dialogue therefore belongs in the center of the Catholic Church’s ecumenical efforts towards reconciliation. It can thus also contribute to looking in a new light at controversial theological disputes between the Christian denominations that have come down to us in the history of Christianity. Above all, the Christian-Jewish dialogue can help Christian ecumenism to overcome the original Marcionite temptation, which is still influential today.47 This was shown a few years ago, for example, by the suggestion of the Berlin Protestant systematician Notger Slenczka that the Old Testament be removed from the canon of the Holy Scriptures and downgraded to the level of apocryphal writings.48 If the Christian-Jewish dialogue helps Christian ecumenism to stop considering the Old and New Testaments as two different books, as has widely become the case in contemporary exegesis and theology, but rather perceive them as one book, namely as a unity-in-tension that, if maintained, allows both the inner continuity between the Old and the New Testament and the novelty of the New Testament message to appear.49 Then the ecumenical dialogue will advance precisely by occurring in the light of the Jewish-Christian dialogue, revealing the “common spiritual heritage” in it that all Christians and Christian communities have in common.