(Vatican Radio) The new Vatican document on the Catholic Church’s changed relationship with the Jewish world will only be effective if it is shared “on the streets, in the pulpits, in the pews of our churches and synagogues”.
That’s the view of Dr Edward Kessler, founding director of the interfaith Woolf Institute in Cambridge and one of the two Jewish speakers at a press conference presenting the new Vatican document on Thursday.
The document, entitled ‘The Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable’, marks the 50th anniversary of the ground-breaking Vatican II declaration ‘Nostra Aetate’ and was drawn up by the Vatican Commission for the Religious Relations with the Jews. Kessler and Rabbi David Rosen, international director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, gave their perspective on the presentations by Cardinal Kurt Koch and Fr Norbert Hofmann of the Vatican Commission.
Kessler talked with Philippa Hitchen about the significance of the new document and the thorny theological questions that it opens up for discussion by Catholics and Jews together…..
Dr Kessler says the new Vatican document "does break new ground" by taking on issues that have traditionally divided Christians and Jews. He notes that among the interesting theological questions the document explores are issues of God’s covenant with the Jewish people, the meaning of salvation, the universality of Christ, and the understanding of the Word of God in Catholic and Jewish scriptures.
He says the presence of Rabbi Rosen and himself in the Vatican press office to present the document represents “a genuine openness” to further explore these issues together. He says the document will not just end up “on dusty library shelves in the Vatican or Cambridge University” but will be followed up by a meeting at Woolf Institute next year to “take it forward and ask the difficult questions that lie at the heart of the Jewish-Catholic encounter”.
Commenting on why it has taken half a century for the changes, called for by Nostra Aetate, to bring concrete results, Dr Kessler says it was only during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, that events such as recognition of the State of Israel and the papal visits to Israel and to Auschwitz convinced Jews that “things had really changed”. There is still much work to be done, he admits, adding that this document must be implemented joint “intellectual, educational and practical” actions “on the streets, in the pulpits, in the pews of our churches and synagogues”.
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