Pope to Chief Rabbis: Catholic and Jews Must Reflect Deeply on Spiritual Bond

Says Progress in Dialogue is Fruit of Second Vatican Council Declaration Nostra Aetate

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Jews and Catholics need to have more than simply «reciprocal and respectful» relations but also «reflect deeply» on the spiritual significance of the bond existing between them.

This was the view Pope Francis shared today when today when he paid a courtesy visit to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel at the Heichal Shlomo in Jerusalem. There he met with the two Chief Rabbis, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau.

After a brief discussion with the two Rabbis, Francis expressed his joy for the warm welcome he has received. He also commented that, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he had counted many Jewish brethren among his friends, and recalled the many “rewarding occasions of encounter and dialogue”. Such meetings, he said, “testify to our mutual desire to know one another better, to listen to each other and to build bonds of true fraternity”.

He observed that this journey of friendship represents “one of the fruits” of the Second Vatican Council, and particularly of the Declaration Nostra Aetate, which proved “so influential” and whose fiftieth anniversary the Church will celebrate next year.

“I am convinced that the progress which has been made in recent decades in the relationship between Jews and Catholics has been a genuine gift of God, one of those great works for which we are called to bless his holy name: ‘Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his love endures forever; who alone has wrought marvellous works, for his love endures forever’”.

The Pope said the progress would also not have come about “without the efforts of so many courageous and generous people, Jews and Christians alike”, and he paid tribute to the “growing importance” of the dialogue between the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

“Inspired by the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Holy Land, this dialogue was inaugurated in 2002 and is already in its twelfth year. I would like to think that, in terms of the Jewish tradition of the Bar Mitzvah, it is just coming of age. I am confident that it will continue and have a bright future in years to come”.

But the Pope stressed that Jews and Catholics need to do “more than simply establish reciprocal and respectful relations on a human level.”

“We are also called, as Christians and Jews, to reflect deeply on the spiritual significance of the bond existing between us,” he said. “It is a bond whose origins are from on high, one which transcends our own plans and projects, and one which remains intact despite all the difficulties which, sadly, have marked our relationship in the past.

“On the part of Catholics, there is a clear intention to reflect deeply on the significance of the Jewish roots of our own faith. I trust that, with your help, on the part of Jews too, there will be a continued and even growing interest in knowledge of Christianity, also in this holy land to which Christians trace their origins. This is especially to be hoped for among young people”.

“Mutual understanding of our spiritual heritage, appreciation for what we have in common and respect in matters on which we disagree: all these can help to guide us to a closer relationship, an intention which we put in God’s hands. Together, we can make a great contribution to the cause of peace; together, we can bear witness, in this rapidly changing world, to the perennial importance of the divine plan of creation; together, we can firmly oppose every form of anti-Semitism and all other forms of discrimination”, he concluded. “May the Lord help us to walk with confidence and strength in his ways. Shalom!”

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