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Bishops Clarify Statement on Dialogue with Jewish Community




WASHINGTON- Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and four other bishops issued on October 5, a "Statement of Principles for Catholic-Jewish Dialogue."

The cardinal and bishops also said in a letter that the June 18 document titled, "A Note on Ambiguities Contained in ‘Reflections on Covenant and Mission'" would be amended by removing two sentences that might lead to misunderstanding about the purpose of interreligious dialogue.

The Note addressed issues related to evangelization and the Jewish covenant that were discussed in an article written in 2002 by a group of Catholic scholars who were consultants to the USCCB and the National Council of Synagogues. Intended "as a clarification of Church teaching primarily for Catholics," the Note "led to misunderstanding and feelings of hurt among members of the Jewish community," the bishops said in their statement.

In addition to announcing the revision, the bishops also issued a Statement with Six Principles for Catholic-Jewish Dialogue that draw on Church teaching and Catholic understanding of the dialogue process. Among the principles is the acknowledgment that "Jewish covenantal life endures till the present day as a vital witness to God's saving will for His people Israel and for all of humanity." The bishops also affirmed the responsibility of Catholics to bear witness to Christ as "the unique savior of humankind." At the same time, they noted that lived context shapes the form of that witness.

"The Statement of Principles" was sent in response to an August 18 letter from Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, American Jewish Committee; Rabbi Eric Greenberg, Anti-Defamation League; Rabbi Gilbert Rosenthal, National Council of Synagogues; Professor Lawrence Schiffman, Orthodox Union; and Rabbi Dr. David Berger, Rabbinical Council of America. The Jewish leaders wrote to express their concern that paragraph 7 of the Note had formally characterized Catholic-Jewish dialogue as an invitation, either explicit or implicit, to Jews to abandon their faith in order to embrace Christianity. The bishops responded by saying that Catholic-Jewish dialogue "has never been and never will be used by the Catholic Church as a means of proselytism," nor is it "a disguised invitation to baptism."

The statement seeks to reaffirm Catholic commitment to a dialogue in which Jewish self-identity is respected and deeper bonds of friendship and mutual understanding between the two communities is promoted.

"In sitting at the table, we expect to encounter Jews who are faithful to the Mosaic covenant, just as we insist that only Catholics committed to the teachings of the Church encounter them in our dialogues," it said.

Signers of the statement and letter in addition to Cardinal George included Cardinal William H. Keeler, archbishop emeritus of Baltimore and USCCB Liaison to the Jewish Community; Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, chairman of the Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Committee; Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Chairman of the Doctrine Committee; and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, Co-chair of the USCCB-Orthodox Union/Rabbinical Council of America Consultation.