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Recommendations from the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies, Seton Hall University

Oesterreicher JohnAfter Pope John XXIII announced on January 25, 1959 that he was convening the Second Vatican Council, various church and university bodies sent to the Vatican recommendations about the topics that the Council should address. The following suggestions on the subject of the nature of the church in relation to Jews were sent from Seton Hall University's Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies, founded by Msgr John M. Oesterreicher (photo right). Signatories included future Bishop John J. Dougherty, and Revs. Gregory Baum, Myles M. Bourke, Joseph Brennan, J. Edgar Bruns, Edward H. Flannery (future specialist on Catholic-Jewish relations for the U.S. Bishops), Isaac Jacob, Edward G. Murray, William Ryan, Ambrose Shaeffer, Quentin L. Schaut, and Oesterreicher himself. Oesterreicher later described this "petition" as making "minimum requests ... limited to certain essential points," since the nature and scope of the Council was not yet known.  Source: John M. Oesterreicher, The New Encounter Between Christians and Jews (New York: Philosophical Library, 1986), 116-119.


  1. That, were the Council to inquire into the nature of the Church in the course of its deliberations, it proclaim the call of Abraham and the deliverance ofisrael out of Egypt to be part of the genesis of the Church, so that she can fittingly and rightly be called "the Israel of God" (Gal 6:16), the Israel renewed and exalted by Christ's word and blood. Such a proclamation would correspond entirely to the way the Church sees herself when, for example, she looks upon the wonderful acts that accompanied Israel's Exodus as present in her life in a new manner. Thus she acknowledges at the Easter Vigil that God, who saved Israel from Egyptian persecution, now accomplishes for all nations, through the waters of regeneration, what He did then for the One People. Impelled by this spirit, the prayer uttered at the E aster Vigil ends with a request that is characteristic of the Church's understanding of herself: "Grant that the whole world may become Abraham's children and share in the dignity of Israel."

  2. That the Council give further liturgical expression to the unity of salvation history, which comes to life espe­ cially in the prayers surrounding the administration of the sacraments. This could be achieved if the Masses now peculiar to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem became votive Masses of the whole Church, or a universal feast of the Just of the Old Testament was introduced. Feasts celebrated by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem include-among  others­ those of St. Abraham, Patriarch and Confessor, St. David, King, Prophet, and Confessor, and St. Jeremias, Prophet and Martyr. The signatories are confident that much would be gained by extending these feasts to the whole Church. In this way, the marvel of the unbroken history of our salvation would be actively experienced, not mechani­cally learned, by the faithful. Thus, the consciousness of God's unceasing guidance of humanity through grace, and of the relationship between Christians and Jews would be made a part of their lives. A liturgical renewal along these lines would surely lead to a growth in love and gratitude among the faithful.

  3. That, "for the love which Christ had for His kinsmen," misleading phrases be changed, particularly in the lessons of the Divine Office, distorting as they do the true teaching of the Church and her real attitude towards the Jews. Were the Council to turn its attention to the problems of our own time, the Church ought to denounce, as she has in the past, hatred of the people whose "is the human stock from which Christ came; Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever, Amen" (Rom 9:5).