Emeritus Pope Benedict

Ratzinger essay: Rabbis want answers from Koch

[From katholisch.de. Unofficial translation.]


The most recent essay by Benedict XVI remains controversial. Now the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference asks curial Cardinal Kurt Koch: How does the essay enrich the dialogue between Jews and Christians?

Judaism | Cologne - August 8, 2018

The most recent essay on the relationship between Christianity and Judaism by the emeritus Pope Benedict XVI continues to cause commotion. The Orthodox Rabbinical Conference of Germany expressed its concern on Friday over the publication of the text that was originally not intended for publication. "For us, this raises more questions and doubts than positive, forward-looking food for thought," stress the rabbis in a letter published in Cologne to the President of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Cardinal Kurt Koch.

They are less concerned with the individual issues dealt with by the emeritus Pope than with "the very fundamental question of whether the Catholic Church can value present-day Judaism and how this appreciation is theologically expressed," the three-page letter states. "We cannot escape the feeling that Pope Benedict XVI leaves little room in his theological reflections for a religious appreciation of today's Judaism and a dialogue based upon it."

Contribution controversial among Catholic and Jewish theologians

This is exemplified in his reflections on the biblical land promise to Israel and his "apodictic" statement that "a theological interpretation of the state of Israel, which sets the state in relation to the biblical land promise, is impossible according to Christian understanding," which is crticized by the rabbis. While Benedict by no means denies Israel's right to exist, he gives the impression that "the state of Israel is only by historical chance located on its present territory."

The Rabbinical Conference poses to Koch the question "how much can this essay enrich the Jewish-Christian conversation?" It also wants to know how the reflections of the emeritus Pope are consistent with the statements of Pope Francis on Judaism.

The controversial article appeared in the July issue of the theological journal Communio under the name "Joseph Ratzinger - Benedict XVI." In it, the emeritus pope dealt with the question of whether the church had replaced the Old Testament covenant between God and the people of Israel. Its statements have triggered debate in professional circles. At first, both Catholic and Jewish theologians were critical. These included, for example, the Wuppertal dogmatic theologian Michael Böhnke and the rabbi Walter Homolka . Others, such as the Bochum New Testament scholar Thomas Söding have rejected the criticism against it.