Pope John Paul II

Dialogika Resources

Address to Jewish Leaders in Strasbourg

[On Sunday, October 9, following his discourse to Christian leaders, the pope returned to the archbishop's residence at Strasbourg for a fraternal meeting with leaders of tbe Jewish community.]

Mr. Chief Rabbi,
Mr. President of the Jewish Consistory of the Lower Rhine,
Mr. President of the Jewish Community of Strasbourg,

Your cordial greeting and the spiritual reflection on the meaning of history which you just made to me cannot but inspire me in my turn to wishes for peace and prosperity for you and for the entire Jewish community.

  1. In thanking you for so many signs of attention, I would like to continue these reflections, taking as my point of departure the biblical verse of the prophet Malachi, which is so beautifully inscribed on your "Synagogue of Peace" and which you also inscribed in the heart of your address: Ha-'lo 'av' Ehad le-Kullanu [Mal. 2:10]; "Have we not all the one Father?" That is the message of faith and truth of which you are the bearers and witnesses throughout history, in the light of God's word and Covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all his descendants; this witness extended to martyrdom, survived the long darkness of misunderstanding, and the horrible abyss of the Shoah.

  2. After the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, thanks also to the work of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee, we have continued—and still continue—to enlarge the already solid foundations of our fraternal relations and to draw conclusions in the area of cooperation on all levels. It is especially in these institutions that I encourage Jewish-Christian dialogue, and I rejoice with you in the progress made thanks to your participation in this task, with a mutual esteem nourished in an atmosphere of prayer, conversion, and readiness to hear and obey the word of God which calls us to love and pardon.

  3. Yes, through my voice, the Catholic Church, faithful to that which the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council has declared, recognizes the value of the religious witness of your people, chosen by God, as Saint Paul says: "In respect to election, they are beloved because of the patriarchs. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable" [Rom. 11:28-29, quoted in Lumen Gentium, 16]. It is a matter of an election, as you have just said, for the "sanctification of his name" for the service of all of humanity. That vocation to the sanctification of his name you express in your daily prayer of the Kaddish: "May your great name be magnified and sanctified!" Or you proclaim it in the words of Isaiah: "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!" [Isa. 6:3]. In the prayers of joy and repentance which are characteristic of the feasts of Rosh ha-Shanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, which you celebrated several days ago, you ask and acclaim the Eternal One: "Our Father, our King, pardon us our sins! Hosh 'na, Save us!"

  4. All the sacred Scriptures, which you venerate with a deep devotion as the source of life, celebrate the beautiful name of God, the Father, the rock who begot Yeshouroun, "The God who gave you birth," as Moses says in his canticle [cf. Deut. 32:18]. "Yes, I am a Father to Israel," the Lord says through the oracle of Jeremiah, who says further, "Ephraim is my first-born" [Jer. 31:9]; Isaiah returns towards him, saying: "Lord, our Father, it is you!" [Isa. 64:7]. The psalms celebrate his name: "My Father! My God! the rock who saves me!" [Ps. 89:27]. In his mercy he also revealed his name which recalls his motherly love, his labour as a mother who gives birth to a child: "Thus the Lord passed before Moses and proclaimed: the Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God!" [Exod. 34:6].

  5. It is then through your prayer, your history, and your experience of faith, that you continue to affirm the fundamental unity of God, his fatherhood and mercy towards every man and woman, the mystery of his plan of universal salvation, and the consequences which come from it according to the principles expressed by the Prophets, in the commitment for justice, peace, and other ethical values.

  6. With the greatest respect for the Jewish religious identity, I would also like to emphasize that for us Christians, the Church, the people of God and Mystical Body of Christ, is called throughout her journey in history to proclaim to all the Good News of salvation in the consolation of the Holy Spirit. According to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, she could better understand her bond with you, certainly thanks to fraternal dialogue, but also by meditating upon her own mystery [Nostra Aetate, 4]. Now that mystery is rooted in the mystery of the person of Jesus Christ, a Jew, crucified and glorified. In his Letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul wrote: [That mystery,] "God did not make known to human beings in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise of Christ Jesus through the Gospel" [Eph. 3:5-6]. Previously the apostle, in addressing "all the beloved of God in Rome" [Rom. 1:7], had affirmed: "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, `Abba, "Father'!" [Rom. 8:15]. Therefore we also recognize and celebrate the glory of God, the Father, Lord of those who adore him "in spirit and in truth" [John 4:24].

  7. European civilization thus keeps its profound roots near that source of living water which are the Holy Scriptures: the one God reveals himself as our father and, through his commandments, asks us to respond to him through love in freedom. At the dawn of a new millennium, the Church, in announcing to Europe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, discovers even better, with joy, the common values, both Christian and Jews, through which we recognize one another as brothers and sisters and to which the history, language, art, and culture of the peoples and nations of this continent refer.

  8. Where should we place our hope, to share with all those who thirst for fraternal consolation, for a message of life, for a lasting and sincere solidarity? What should we preach together to offer a spiritual service to Europe, so rich in so many resources, yet at the same time being questioned about what meaning to give to these resources in the context of international development? Permit me to propose three considerations here:

    • that the European peoples do not forget that we draw our origin from a common Father, and from that source there comes, for us, the duty of a mutual and fraternal responsibility which must extend with the same depth of concern for each person, the image of God, and each people of the world;

    • that we Christians become ever more aware of the particular task that we have to fulfill in cooperation with the Jews, by reason of our common heritage which impels us to promote justice and peace, to live according; to the demands of the Commandments, faithful to the voice of God, in respect for every creature. I also wish that true collaboration on the social level may develop, in many areas, according to the principles which I expressed in my encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis;

    • it is in deep fidelity to the vocation to which the God of peace and justice calls us, and with us, all European peoples, that I repeat again with you the strongest condemnation of all anti-Semitism and racism, which is opposed to the principles of Christianity, and for which there exists no justification in the cultures to which we refer. For the same reasons, we must set aside all religious prejudice which history has shown us to be inspired by anti-Jewish at­titudes, or to contradict the dignity of each person.

    May God confirm us in these intentions and in the faith, and give us his consolation, as the psalm says:

    "The Lord himself will give his benefits, our land shall yield its increase. Justice shall walk before him, and salvation, along the way of his steps" [Ps. 85:13-14].