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Letter from IJCIC to Pope Benedict XVI on His Visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome

International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations

25 January 2010
10 Shvat 5770

His Holiness Benedict XVI
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City State

Your Holiness,

We wish to express our appreciation for your visit on 17 January to the Great Synagogue of Rome and for your thoughtful words on that occasion. It was our pleasure to have had a delegation participate in this historic event.

We particularly want to echo your continuing commitment to the formal dialogue of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, IJCIC, with our counterparts at the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. Your mention of this productive and continuing collaboration affirms its importance for your Papacy and for the significant progress which has been made over these 40 years. We are encouraged by your endorsement of the centrality of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee in our bi-lateral relationship.

It was important to hear your condemnation not only of anti-Semitism but also, critically, of anti-Judaism, and your unequivocal affirmation of the understandings of Nostra Aetate, which emerged out of the Second Vatican Council as the basis for the Church’s recognition of the continuing legitimacy of the Covenant at Sinai for and with Jews. We recognize that this affirmation has been the basis, indeed the pre-condition, for so much of the progress in the relationship between the Jewish and Catholic communities around the world. It also reassures us of the Church’s response to those, even in this century, who would deny the continuing validity of God’s Covenant with Jews and our Creator’s continuing embrace of the Jewish people.

Permit us also to acknowledge how moving we found the personal recognition of those survivors of the Holocaust who were present in the audience. The very strong applause which accompanied that recognition demonstrated how that terrible episode in human history continues to evoke the most powerful emotions and often deeply impacts how many within our community respond to events which take place within the Church itself.

As you personally intimated, we are all aware that there is unfinished business in our continually unfolding relationship. We will not, on this positive occasion, specifically reiterate the range of those matters which continue to challenge us. Nevertheless, because of its timeliness, we do respectfully reiterate our request that you now find a way to delay the beatification process for Pope Pius XII until such time as the Vatican’s archives relating to the Holocaust period are open for satisfactory review by independent scholars.

In sum, we take comfort that your words, the symbolism of the occasion last week, and the work of the ILC, which will resume this March, will provide the context for our continuing mutual understanding and brotherhood.

On behalf of all the organizations represented by IJCIC, I wish you continued good health and that you be blessed with the courage and commitment to helping our special relationship to flourish.


Rabbi Richard A. Marker

Cardinal Walter Kasper
Professor Lawrence Schiffman, Vice Chair
Betty Ehrenberg, Treasurer