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Home : News : Pope Francis/Vatican
Meeting Jewish group, pope asks prayers for his Holy Land trip
Catholic News Service photo
Pope Francis greets Stanley Bergman, president of the American Jewish Committee, during a meeting at the Vatican Feb. 13. The pope said the modern relationship between Jews and Catholics has a
Catholic News Service photo
Pope Francis greets Stanley Bergman, president of the American Jewish Committee, during a meeting at the Vatican Feb. 13. The pope said the modern relationship between Jews and Catholics has a "theological foundation" and is "not simply an expression of our desire for reciprocal respect and esteem."
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis asked leaders of the American Jewish Committee to pray for his May trip to Jerusalem, "so that this pilgrimage may bring forth the fruits of communion, hope and peace."

The modern relationship between Jews and Catholics, he said Feb. 13, has a "theological foundation" and is "not simply an expression of our desire for reciprocal respect and esteem."

Pope Francis noted that in 2015, the Catholic Church will mark the 50th anniversary of "Nostra Aetate," the Second Vatican Council's declaration on relations with other religions. The document, the pope said, is "the sure point of reference for relations with our 'elder brothers.'"

The declaration said Christians and Jews share a common heritage and a profound spiritual bond and denounced any form of contempt of the Jews. It also explicitly taught that responsibility for Jesus' death "cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today."

Pope Francis told the American Jewish Committee delegation that while the Catholic-Jewish exploration of theological themes must continue, the two communities also must find ways to work together to construct "a more just and fraternal world," especially through service to the poor, the marginalized and the suffering.

In addition, he said, "it is important that we dedicate ourselves to transmitting to new generations the heritage of our mutual knowledge, esteem and friendship," especially in seminaries and education programs for lay Catholics. "I am similarly hopeful that a desire for an understanding of Christianity may grow among young rabbis and the Jewish community."

Stanley Bergman, president of the committee, thanked the pope for his commitment to improving Jewish-Catholic relations and told him, "We come here feeling deeply that you are our true friend, and we feel that we are yours."

The Jewish delegation also met with Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews, and with Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

Rabbi David Rosen, the committee's international director of interreligious relations, told reporters that the talks with the secretary of state focused on promoting religious freedom, education and cooperation in charitable activities. When asked, he said that neither the committee members nor the Vatican officials brought up the sainthood cause of Pope Pius XII, a figure of controversy because of what he did or did not do during World War II to help save Jews.

As for Pope Francis' May trip to the Holy Land, the Israel-based Rabbi Rosen said he wished plans called for the pope to be in Israel for more than 30 hours, but he was sure Pope Francis would "do everything that has to be done."

"Everybody is so excited -- whether Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis -- that no matter how short his visit is, it's a guaranteed success," the rabbi said. "Hopefully it will leave behind it a sense of greater hope for the future. That's what we need in the Middle East."

Addressing questions about the possibility of a Catholic-Jewish theological dialogue, Rabbi Rosen said both Blessed John Paul II and retired Pope Benedict XVI had noted that Christians cannot understand  Christianity without knowing something about Judaism. He said Cardinal Koch described that situation as being like "a child who does not know his mother."

While "it's true that Judaism does not have to understand Christianity in order to understand itself," he said, "that doesn't mean that we shouldn't."

Rabbi Rosen said he believes that in the relationship between Jews and Christians, "God is speaking to us and, therefore, it's our moral obligation to ask what this relationship means."

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Article comment by: Leslie Wetter

I am writing this with no side taken. I was born and raised a Jewish young woman in Brooklyn, NY. After many lessons in the school of life I decided to convert to Catholicism.
Just because I did so, that did not erase my Jewishness. Being Jewish is not only a 'religion' it is a way of life. Something I did not know.
However, I learned about my Jewish ancestry as a Catholic than I ever did as a kid. I never knew anything in the Torah. I knew how to light the candles, make potato latkes, spin the dradle, etc. but nothing on a real spiritual/written word sense.
In terms of what each can learn. Without question Catholics need to learn the written word from the mouths of a Rabbi, theologian, scholar, or learned lay person. In my experience so much spiritual understanding of what Jesus meant, how he lived, what his goals were etc. is missing. No gentile has the mindset to really comprehend
all that was really meant. What is normally said in a homily does not give clarity to the real Jesus. The Jewish Jesus. I think we need to pay more attention to Jesus' words to really understand what is said. Watch a fascinating lectures by Rabbi Mordechai Kraft on the Hebrew Language and on the garden of eden. Be willing to hear things from a Jewish mindset to comprehend Jesus.
Just as no Christian has the knowledge Jews need to listen to some of Yeshuah's teachings as life lessons of which we are most familiar with. He said loving your neighbor is not as important as loving your enemy's. It has been my experience that letting go of past wrongs and injustices has been most needed in my spiritual journey. Actually praying to let God remove the hostility and hatred while letting his love in can be done. With all the hostility and resentment I have carried for years I can say that if you pray for the right things you'll get them. Humility, obedience, and spiritual love are tender subjects to learn. Many hold onto the scars and the lessons of God are muffled with hostility and resentment. I'm saying if one wants to follow God one has to let go of those chains to be free to love as God wants. No on can deny the anti-semitism the Jews have had to endure throughout the ages. That is a hard cross to bear. No one can deny the many hardships endured but it is needed to go beyond anger, pride, and the belief that I know more to actually learn from Christianity. It's been life changing for me and I belief that all Jews can get that gift if they are willing to listen. This is not about which religion is right or wrong it's about hearing the word of God in each other.

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