Emeritus Pope Benedict

Is the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue in Danger?

 Confusion and Anxiety Spread 


Deutscher Koordinierungsrat der Gesellschaften für Christlich-Jüdische Zusammenarbeit (DKR)

[German Coordinating Council of the Societies for Christian-Jewish Cooperation]


17 July 2018 [Unofficial translation from German.] 


Benedict XVI, in his article "Grace and Calling without Repentance" (in: Communio, July / August 2018) has relativized two fundamental aspects of the theological foundations that since the Second Vatican Council (Nostra Aetate) have enabled the beginning of Christian-Jewish dialogue:

  • The "rejection of supersessionism."
  • The "unrevoked covenant.”

Even though Benedict XVI is emeritus Pope and can therefore no longer authoritatively issue magisterial documents, this critical questioning gives theological experts cause for great concern. This article did not remain as originally written: as private notes, as a private theological reflection and "for personal use," it was entrusted to the President of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Kurt Cardinal Koch.

Cardinal Koch published this article by Benedict XVI (with his consent) in the most recent edition of the journal Communio – and even before its publication, puzzlement and uncertainty in the press were unmistakable. If there is any doubt, the future of Christian-Jewish dialogue will waver in the face of this thoroughly critical questioning of its theological foundations.

The explosive nature of the publication of this article, according to several Catholic theologians, lies above all in the ambiguity created by its content and publication by an official Vatican Commission. Moreover, at no point in the foreword by Cardinal Koch is it acknowledged that the recent magisterial Vatican statements on relations with Judaism are valued and continue to apply as the basis for the Christian-Jewish dialogue:

  • Why are the theological foundations of the Christian-Jewish dialogue critically questioned, but without any new, solid foundations?
  • Why is such an important topic discussed within the Christian-Jewish dialogue without Jewish theology?
  • Why did Cardinal Koch, as responsible for the Catholic Church’s religious relations with Judaism, urge the publication of this article, which raises more questions than it builds bridges – and calls its content a response in the context of a "deep theological dialogue" between the Catholic Church and Judaism?
  • Is it presently foreseeable if the publication of the article by Benedict XVI signals that its contents will be authorized by the Vatican Commission?

The magisterial Vatican documents since the Second Vatican Council, such as the declaration Nostra Aetate and its affirmation after 50 years in “For the Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable” (2015) are the indispensable foundations for the gratifying developments in the Catholic-Jewish dialogue. In this tradition, are Pope Francis' clear statements in Evangelii Gaudium (2013) about Christian relations with Judaism. No less clearly and positively has Benedict XVI situated himself during his term of office on the importance of the [Hebrew] Scriptures (Old Testament) for Christianity (“The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scripture in the Christian Bible,” 2001/2013).

The Presidium of the Deutscher Koordinierungsrat (DKR) is very disconcerted and considers​ it essential that there be​ immediate discussions for clarification. The Catholic Church is a very important partner for the engagement of the German Coordinat​i​​n​g​​Council in the Christian-Jewish dialogue. The supposedly stable bridge between the church and Judaism, however, becomes shaky if its theological foundations are so questioned and no new ones are identifiable in the near future.

Presidium of the Deutscher Koordinierungsrat der Gesellschaften für Christlich-Jüdische Zusammenarbeit

  • Rabbi Andreas Nachama, Jewish President
  • Margaretha Hackermeier, Catholic President
  • Friedhelm Pieper, Protestant President