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Today’s news dispatch: Dec. 18, 2015

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Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to Be Made Canonized Saint

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta will be made a canonized saint.

During a private audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in the Vatican yesterday, Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree regarding a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Teresa, known as Mother Teresa around the world.

Born Aug. 26, 1910, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu would go on to found the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity and the Missionaries of Charity. The order, which started in Calcutta and spread to more than 130 countries, ran hospices for those suffering from HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and tuberculosis. Known for her charitable works with the poor and sick, the soon to be canonized saint, died on Sept. 5, 1997. 

Immediately following her death in 1997, the Catholic Church began her process of beatification. She was beatified by St. John Paul II in 2002, following the recognition of the miraculous healing of an Indian woman suffering from a tumor in her abdomen. Yesterday, Pope Francis signed off on the second miracle needed, which, according to the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, L’Avvenire, regarded a man in Brazil in 2008 who had multiple brain abscesses, and who, within a day of being in a coma, was cured.

During yesterday’s audience, the Pope also authorized other decrees including the following heroic virtues:

— of Servant of God Giuseppe Ambrosoli, professed priest of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (July 25, 1923 – March 27, 1987)

–of Servant of God Adolfo (born Lanzuela Leonardo Martínez), professed religious of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (Nov. 8, 1894 -March 14, 1976)

–of Servant of God Henry Hahn, Laico (Aug. 29, 1800 – March 11, 1882)


Pope: ‘Our World, Which at Christmas Became His World, Is Important to Him’

The nativity scene reminds us that God came from heaven to stay with us, that «our world, which at Christmas became His world, is important to Him.»

Pope Francis said this today when he received in audience some 700 people from the Bavarian municipalities of Hirschau, Schanaittenbach and Freudenberg, who donated the Christmas tree adorning St. Peter’s Square this year, and representatives from the Italian province of Trento who, along with the archdiocese, created the Nativity display. The decorations on the tree are from the Lene Thun Foundation of Bolzano and, as the Holy Father commented, represent the dreams of the children who decorated it, whom he thanked.

“These wishes that we carry in our heart are now in the most suitable place, because they are close to the child of Bethlehem: they are entrusted to Him, He Who came to live in our midst. Indeed, Jesus did not simply appear on earth, and did not dedicate just a little of His time to us, but rather came to share our life and to receive our desires, as He wanted and still wants to live here, along with us and for us. Our world, which at Christmas became His world, is important to Him. The creche reminds us of this: God, in his great mercy, descended to us to stay with us”.

The Nativity also tells us that the Lord “never imposes upon us with force. To save us, He did not change history by performing a grand miracle. Instead, He lived with simplicity, humility and meekness. God does not like the dramatic revolutions of the powerful of history, and does not use a magic wand to change situations. Instead He makes Himself small, He becomes a child, to attract us with love, to touch our hearts with His humble goodness, to draw attention through His poverty to those who worry about accumulating the false treasures of this world”.

The Holy Father recalled that this was the intention of St. Francis when he invented the creche – to pay homage to the Child who was born in Bethlehem so as to be able to in some way perceive with the eyes of the body the hardships He suffered for the lack of the basic necessities for a newborn. Indeed, the scene honours and praises simplicity, poverty and humility. “I invite you, then, to pause before the Nativity scene, for there God’s tenderness speaks to us. There we contemplate divine mercy, made flesh so that we gaze tenderly upon it. Above all, it wishes to move our hearts”.

In this regard, Francis indicated that in the creche there is a figure who reveals the mystery of the Nativity. “It is a character who performs a good act, stooping to assist an elderly person. He not only looks to God but also imitates Him, as, like God, he inclines mercifully to one in need. May these gifts of yours, which will be lit up this evening, attract the gaze of many and above all revive in our life the true light of Christmas.»


Pope’s Homily at Opening of Holy Door in Caritas Center

Here is a ZENIT translation of the homily Pope Francis gave off-the-cuff today when he opened a Holy Door and celebrated Mass at a Caritas center for the homeless at Rome’s Termini Station.

* * *

God comes to save us. He doesn’t find a better way to do so than walking with us, living our life, and at the moment of choosing the way to live life He didn’t choose a great city of a great empire; He didn’t choose a princess, a countess for His Mother, an important person; He didn’t choose a luxurious palace. It seems as if everything was done intentionally, almost in a hidden way. Mary a girl of 16-17, not older, in a lost village on the fringe of the Roman Empire, which no one surely knew that village. Joseph, a youth who loved her and wanted to marry her; a carpenter who earned the bread, all in simplicity, in a hidden way. And also in the rejection, because they were engaged and in such a small village you know how gossip is. They go around … And Joseph realizes that she is pregnant, but he was a just man. Everything hidden, even with calumny, with gossip. And the Angel explains the mystery to Joseph: “the child that your bride bears is the work of God, work of the Holy Spirit.’ When Joseph awoke from his sleep he did what the Angel of the Lord ordered him. And he went to her and married her. But he did everything in a hidden, humble way. The great cities of the world didn’t know anything …

Thus is God among us. If you want to find God, seek Him in humility, seek Him in poverty, seek Him where He is hidden: in the neediest, in the sick, in the hungry, in the imprisoned. And when Jesus preaches life to us He says: how our Judgment will be. He will not say you come with Me because you made so many good offerings in the Church. The entrance to Heaven is not paid for with money. He won’t say you are very important. You have studied so much and received so many honors.  Honors do not open the doors of Heaven.

What will Jesus say? I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was sick, I was in prison and you came to me …. Jesus is in humility. Jesus’ love is great, so today on opening this Holy Door I would like the Holy Spirit to open the heart of all Romans, to make them see what is the way of salvation. There is no luxury, it is not the way of great riches, it’s not the way of power, it’s the way of humility. The poorest, the sick, the imprisoned … But Jesus says more: if the greatest sinners repent, they will precede us in Heaven. They have the key. The one that does charity and the one who lets himself be embraced by the Lord’s mercy. Today we open this Door and we ask for two things.

First: that the Lord open the door of our heart, of everyone. We are all in need. We are all sinners. We are all in need of hearing the Lord’s word and that the Lord’s word come.

Second: that the Lor
d make us understand that the way of riches, of vanity and of pride are not the ways of salvation. May the Lord make us understand that His caress of Father, His mercy, His forgiveness is when we approach those that suffer, those discarded by society. Jesus is there. This Door is the Door of charity, the Door where so many, so many discarded are assisted … May He make us understand that it will also be good if every one of us, every Roman feels discarded, and that we feel the need of God’s help. Today we pray for Rome, for all the inhabitants of Rome, beginning with me, that the Lord may give us the grace to feel discarded because we have no merit. He alone gives us the grace. And to have this grace we must approach the poor. We will be judged on our coming close to them.

On opening this Door may the Lord give that grace to every inhabitant of Rome. Embrace of the Father to the wounded Son but where the wounded one is the Father. The Lord is wounded of love. May He give us all this grace to embrace one another.

[Transcription and translation by ZENIT]



Fr. Cantalamessa’s 3rd Advent Sermon

Here is the 3rd Advent sermon of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household.

* * *

Mary in the Mystery of Christ and of the Church

1. Mariology in Lumen gentium 

The topic of this last Advent meditation is Chapter 8 of Lumen gentium called “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the Mystery of Christ and the Church.” Let us listen to what the Council says on this issue:

The predestination of the Blessed Virgin as Mother of God was associated with the incarnation of the divine word: in the designs of divine Providence she was the gracious mother of the divine Redeemer here on earth, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, gave birth to, and nourished Christ, she presented Him to the Father in the temple, shared his sufferings as He died on the Cross. Thus, in a very special way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.

Alongside the title of Mother of God and of believers, the other fundamental category that the Council uses to illustrate Mary’s role is that of a model or a type:

By reason of the gift and role of her divine motherhood, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with her unique graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united to the church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the church in the order of faith, charity, and perfect union with Christ.

The greatest novelty in the Council’s treatment of Mary consists, as we know, precisely in the place in which she was inserted, which was within the Constitution on the Church. In so doing the Council—not without tensions and difficulties—carried out a profound renewal of Mariology with respect to that of recent centuries. The discussion on Mary is no longer separate, as if she held an intermediary position between Christ and the Church; she is placed back into the context of the Church, as she was during the time of the Fathers. Mary is seen, as Saint Augustine said, as the most excellent member of the Church but nonetheless a member of it, not outside of it or above it: 

Mary is holy, Mary is blessed, but the Church is something better than the virgin Mary. Why? Because Mary is part of the Church, a holy member, a quite exceptional member, the supremely wonderful member, but still a member of the whole body. That being so, it follows that the body is something greater than the member.

Two realities are reciprocally illumined here. If in fact the discussion on the Church sheds light on who Mary is, the discussion on Mary also sheds light on what the Church is, “the body of Christ,” and as such, it is “almost an extension of the incarnation of the Word.” John Paul II highlighted this reciprocity in his encyclical, Redemptoris Mater: “The Second Vatican Council, by presenting Mary in the mystery of Christ, also finds the path to a deeper understanding of the mystery of the Church.”

Another novelty from the Council on Mariology is its emphasis on Mary’s faith. This was also a theme that was taken up and developed more fully by John Paul II who made it the central theme of his Marian encyclical. This represents a return to the Mariology of the Fathers who emphasized the Blessed Virgin’s faith, more than her privileges, as her personal contribution to the mystery of salvation. Here too we can note the influence of Saint Augustine:

The blessed Mary herself conceived by believing the one whom she bore by believing. . . . When the angel [spoke], she was so full of faith [fide plena] that she conceived Christ in her mind before doing so in her womb, and said, Behold the maidservant of the Lord; may it happen to me according to your word [italics original].”

2. An Ecumenical Perspective on Mary as the Mother of Believers

What I would like to do is to highlight the ecumenical importance of the Council’s Mariology, that is, how it can contribute—and is already contributing—to bringing Catholics and Protestants closer together on the sensitive and controversial issue of devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

First I want to clarify the principle at the basis of the reflections that follow. If Mary is fundamentally positioned as a part of the Church, it follows that the biblical categories and affirmations from which to begin to shed light on her, then, are those relative to human beings who constitute the Church and applied to her “a fortiori,” rather than those relative to the divine Persons and applied to her “by reduction.”

For example, to understand the sensitive issue of the mediation of Mary in the work of salvation in the right way, it is more helpful to start with her mediation as a creature, or from below, as is the case with the mediation of Abraham, the apostles, and the sacraments of the Church itself, rather than from the divine-human mediation of Christ. The greatest gap, in fact, is not that which exists between Mary and the rest of the Church, but that which exists between Mary and the Church on one side, and Christ and the Trinity on the other side, that is, between the creatures and the Creator.

Let us now draw the conclusion from this. If Abraham, because of what he had done, merited in the Bible the name of “father of us all” (Rom 4:16; see Lk 16:24), which means the father of all believers, we can better understand why the Church does not hesitate to call Mary “the mother of us all,” the mother of all believers.

In this comparison between Abraham and Mary we can gain an even better insight concerning not only that simple title but also its content and significance. Is “mother of all believers” a simple title of honor, or is it something more? Here we can glimpse the possibility of an ecumenical discussion on Mary. John Calvin interprets the text in which God said to Abraham, “By you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves” (Gen 12:3) to mean that “Abram would be [not only] an example but a cause of blessing [italics original].” A well-known modern Protestant exegete similarly writes, 

The question has been raised [about Gen 12:3: “by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves”] whether the meaning is only that Abraham is to become a formula for blessing, that his blessing is to become far and wide proverbial. . . . The accepted interpretation must therefore remain. It is like a “command [by God] to history” [see B. Jacob]. Abraham is assigned the role of a m
ediator of blessing in God’s saving plan, for “all the families of the earth.”

This helps us understand what tradition, beginning with Saint Irenaeus, says about Mary: she is not only an exampleof blessing but also a cause of salvation—although in a manner that depends uniquely on grace and on God’s will. Eve “having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and the entire human race, so also did Mary, . . . by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and for the whole human race [italics added].” Mary’s words that “all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48) are also to be considered “a command by God to history.” 

It is an encouraging fact to discover that the very initiators of the Reform recognized the title and the prerogative of “Mother” for Mary in the sense of being our mother and the mother of salvation. In a sermon for Christmas Mass, Martin Luther said, “This is the comfort and exceeding goodness of God that [for every person] . . . Mary is his rightful mother, Christ his brother, and God his father. . . . This will be the case if you believe, then you will repose in the lap of the virgin Mary and be her dear child.” Ulrich Zwingli, in a sermon in 1524, calls Mary “the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our salvation” and says that in regard to her he “never thought, still less taught, or declared publicly, anything . . . which could be considered dishonorable, impious, unworthy, or evil.” 

How then did we ever get to the current situation of so much uneasiness by Protestant brothers and sisters about Mary, to the point that in some circles it is almost a duty to belittle Mary, to attack Catholics continuously on this point, and in every instance to skip over everything that Scripture itself says about her?

This is not the place to do a historical review. I merely want to point out what seems to me the path that leads away from this unfortunate situation about Mary. That path includes an honest recognition of the fact that often, especially in the recent centuries, we Catholics have contributed to making Mary unacceptable to Protestants by honoring her in ways that are often exaggerated and ill-advised and above all by not keeping devotion to her clearly within a biblical framework that demonstrates her subordinate role with respect to the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus himself. Mariology in recent centuries has become a non-stop factory of new titles, new devotions, often in polemic against Protestants, sometimes using Mary—our common Mother!—as a weapon against them.

The Second Vatican Council reacted to this tendency appropriately by recommending that the faithful “carefully refrain from whatever might by word or deed lead the separated sisters and brothers or any others whatsoever into error about the true doctrine of the church” and by reminding the faithful that “true devotion consists neither in sterile or transitory feeling, nor in an empty credulity.”

On the Protestants’ side, there is, I believe, room to acknowledge the negative influence that not only anti-Catholic polemic but also rationalism has had in their attitude toward Mary. Mary is not an idea but a concrete person, a woman, and as such she does not easily lend herself to be theorized about or reduced to an abstract principle. She is the very icon of God’s simplicity. For this reason, in an atmosphere dominated by extreme rationalism, she had to be eliminated from the theological scene. 

A Lutheran woman who died a few years ago, Mother Basilea Schlink, founded a community of sisters in the Lutheran Church called the “Sisters of Mary,” which has now spread to various countries throughout the world. After recalling different texts by Luther on the Blessed Mother, she wrote in one of her short books (whose Italian translation I edited), 

Reading these words of Martin Luther, who revered the mother Mary to the end of his life, observed the festivals of the Virgin Mary, and daily sang the Magnificat, we can sense how far the majority of us have drifted away from the proper attitude towards her. . . . Because rationalism accepted only that which could be explained rationally, church festivals in honor of Mary and everything else reminiscent of her were done away with in the Protestant Church. All biblical relationship to the mother Mary was lost, and we are still suffering from this heritage. When Martin Luther bids us to praise the mother Mary, declaring that she can never be praised enough as the noblest lady and, after Christ, the fairest gem in Christendom, I must confess that for many years I was one of those who had not done so, although Scripture says that henceforth all generations would call Mary blessed (Luke 1:48). I had not taken my place among these generations.

All these premises allow us to develop a heartfelt hope that one day in the not too distant future, Catholics and Protestants might no longer be divided but united about Mary in a shared veneration, perhaps differing in its forms but agreeing in recognizing her as the Mother of God and the Mother of believers. I have had the joy of personally observing some signs of this shift going on. On more than one occasion, I have been able to speak about Mary to a Protestant audience, noting not only acceptance among those present but also, at least in one case, the deep emotion that occurs in the rediscovery of something precious and in a healing of memories.

3. Mary, Mother and Daughter of God’s Mercy 

Let us leave aside the ecumenical discussion, and let us try to see if the Year of Mercy helps us discover something new about the Mother of God. Mary is invoked in the ancient prayer Salve Regina as “Mater misericordiae,” the Mother of mercy. In that same prayer, this invocation is addressed to her: “illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte”: “Turn . . . thine eyes of mercy toward us.” At the opening Mass for the Jubilee Year in St. Peter’s Square on December 8, an ancient icon of the Mother of God was displayed at the side of the altar. This icon, which is venerated by Ukrainian Greek Catholics in a church in Jaroslaw, Poland, is known as the “Doors of Mercy.” 

Mary is the mother and door of mercy in two senses. She was the door through which the mercy of God, in Jesus, entered into the world, and she is now the door through which we enter into the mercy of God and present ourselves to the “throne of mercy,” which is the Trinity. This is all very true, but it is only one aspect of the relationship between Mary and the mercy of God. She is in fact not only a channel and a mediator of God’s mercy but also its object and its first recipient. She is not only the one who obtains mercy for us but also the one who first obtained mercy and more so than anyone else.

Mercy is synonymous with grace. Only in the Trinity do we find love that is nature and not grace; it is love but not mercy. The Father loving the Son is not a grace or a concession; it is in a certain sense a necessity. The Father needs to love in order to exist as Father. The Son loving the Father is not a concession or a grace; it is an intrinsic necessity even if it occurs with the utmost freedom. The Son needs to be loved and to love in order to be the Son. It is when God creates the world and free creatures in it that his love becomes a free and unmerited gift, that is, grace and mercy. This is the case even before sin entered. Sin only made God’s mercy, which was a gift, become forgiveness.

The qualification “full of grace” is thus synonymous with “full of mercy.” Mary herself, moreover, proclaims this in the Magnificat: “he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden”; “He has helped . . . in remembrance of his mercy”; “his mercy is . . . from generation to generation” (Lk 1:48, 54, 50). Mary knows that she is a beneficiary of mercy, a specially favored witness of
it. In her case, the mercy of God did not bring about forgiveness for sin but preservation from sin. 

St. Thérèse of the Infant Jesus said that what God did with Mary is what a good doctor would do during an epidemic. He goes from house to house curing those who have contracted the disease. But if there is someone who is especially close to his heart, like his wife or his mother, he will try, if he can, to prevent them from even catching the infection. This is precisely what God has done in preserving Mary from original sin through the merits of his Son’s passion. 

St. Augustine, speaking of Jesus’ humanity, says, “By what preceding merits . . . has this man merited to be . . . assumed by the Word co-eternal with the Father into the unity of one person? What good of his, of any kind whatever, preceded this union? What did he do beforehand, what did he believe, what did he ask, in order to arrive at this ineffable excellence?” Augustine adds elsewhere, “Ask yourself whether this involved any merit, any motivation, any right on your part; and see whether you find anything but grace.” 

These words shed a unique light on Mary as well. All the more so should we ask, what did Mary do to deserve the privilege of giving the Word his humanity? What had she believed, asked for, hoped, or endured to come into the world holy and immaculate? Look here as well for any merit, for any fairness, look for anything you want and see if, from the outset, you find anything but grace, that is, mercy! 

Saint Paul as well will not cease throughout his life to consider himself the fruit of and a trophy of God’s mercy. He describes himself as “one who has received mercy from the Lord” (see 1 Cor 7:25). He did not confine himself to formulating the doctrine of mercy but became himself a living witness to it: “I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him; but I received mercy” (1 Tim 1:13). 

Mary and the apostle teach us that the best way to preach mercy is to give testimony to the mercy God has had on us. They teach us to consider ourselves also as the fruit of God’s mercy in Christ Jesus and alive only because of it. One day Jesus healed an unfortunate person possessed by an unclean spirit. He wanted to follow Jesus and join his group of disciples. Jesus did not allow him to and told him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mk 5:19).

Mary, who glorified and thanked God in the Magnificat for his mercy toward her, invites us to do the same in the Year of Mercy. She invites us to make her canticle resound in the Church every day like a chorus that repeats a song after the soloist. Therefore, let me invite you to stand and to proclaim together, in place of the final Marian antiphon, the canticle of God’s mercy, which is the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord. . . .”

Holy Father, Venerable Fathers, brothers and sisters, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year of Mercy!

Translated from Italian by Marsha Daigle Williamson

[1] Lumen gentium, 61, in Vatican Council II: Constitutions, Decrees, Declarations, gen. ed. Austin Flannery (Northport, NY: Costello, 1996), p. 85.

[2] Ibid., 63, p. 86.

[3] On the events surrounding the perspectives on Mariology in the Council discussions, see The History of Vatican II, Vol 4: Church as Communion: Third Period and Intersession: September 1964–September 1965, ed. Giuseppe Alberigo, English ed. Joseph A. Komonchak (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002), pp. 445-447.

[4] Saint Augustine, “Sermon 72 A,” 7,  in The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, vol. 3, trans. Edmund Hill, ed. John Rotelle (Brooklyn, NY: New City Press, 1991), p. 228.

[5] John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 5.

[6] Ibid.

[7] See Lumen gentium, 58, p. 84.

[8] See John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 5: “In these reflections, however, I wish to consider primarily that ‘pilgrimage of faith’ in which ‘the Blessed Virgin advanced,’ faithfully preserving her union with Christ.”

[9] St. Augustine, “Sermon 215,” 4, in The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, vol. 6, trans. Edmund Hill, ed. John Rotelle (New Rochelle, NY: New City Press, 1993), p. 160.

[10] John Calvin, Genesis, ed. Alister McGrath (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001), p. 112.

[11] Gerhard von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary, trans. John H. Marks (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961), pp. 155-156.

[12] Saint Irenaeus, The Writings of St. Irenaeus: Irenaeus Against the Heresies, III, 22, 4 (London: T & T Clark, 1884), p. 361.

[13] Martin Luther, “Christmas Sermon” (1522), Wartburg Church Postil, in Through the Years with Martin Luther: A Selection of Sermons Celebrating the Feasts and Seasons of the Year (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007), p. 104.

[14] Ulrich Zwingli, “Mary, Ever Virgin, Mother of God” (1524), quoted in Max Thurian, Mary: Mother of All Chris
 (New York: Herder and Herder, 1963), p. 76.

[15] Lumen gentium, 67, p. 89.

[16] Mother Basilea Schlink, Mary, the Mother of Jesus (London: Marshall Pickering, 1986), pp. 114-115.

[17] Saint Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints, 15, 30, in Four Anti-Pelagian Writings, trans. John A. Mourant and William J. Collinge, vol. 86, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2010), p. 253. See also PL 44, p. 981.

[18] Saint Augustine, “Sermon 185,” 3, in Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, trans. Thomas Comerford Lawler, vol. 15, Ancient Christian Writers (New York: Paulist Press, 1952), p. 79. See also PL 38, p. 999.


Statement From Chief Rabbinate of Israel-Vatican Commission

Joint Statement on the Meeting of the Bilateral Commission of the Delegations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews (Jerusalem, December 16/17, 2015; Tevet 4/5, 5776)

1. The Bilateral Commission of the delegations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews held its thirteenth meeting in Jerusalem at the offices of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung on the subject of “Migrants and Refugees – threat or opportunity?” .
2. Chief Rabbi Rasson Arousi, acting Chairman of the Jewish delegation, welcomed Cardinal Peter Turkson, Chairman of the Catholic delegation, and his colleagues. This was followed by a minute of silence in memory of Cardinal Jorge Mejia the first Catholic co-chair of the Bilateral Commission who had passed away since the last meeting was held. Tributes were paid to his historic contribution to the transformation in Catholic-Jewish relations, especially to be noted at a time of celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Nostra Aetate. The participants also sought to convey wishes for a full and speedy recovery to Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen.
3. The Jewish delegation took the opportunity to express its appreciation regarding the new document issued by the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews on the occasion of the aforementioned anniversary. This document written for the Catholic faithful as a theological reflection on the relationship of the Church to the Jewish People and titled “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (cf. Romans 11: 29), affirms the eternal validity of the Divine Covenant with the Jewish People who are called to be loyal to Torah. Accordingly the document affirms the integrity of the Jewish faith and understanding of Scripture and that there is no intent on the part of the Church to convert Jews. The text also refers with esteem to the meetings and statements of this bilateral committee of the Pontifical Commission with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and urges greater cooperation between the Church and the Jewish People for a more just and peaceful world – for tikkun olam bmalkhut Shadai .
4. It was accordingly most appropriate that this meeting of the bilateral commission focused on the enormous current humanitarian crisis in the form of hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking asylum and the challenges this poses.
5. The presentations and discussion highlighted a number of issues:
I. The tensions between the obligation to welcome and “love the stranger as yourself” (Lev. 19:34) while meeting one’s responsibilities to one’s own identity, society, community and specific religious mission.
II. The challenge posed by migration raises a question mark regarding the fullness and authenticity of human existence and experience. It raises moral demands for respect for human dignity that no decent conscience can ignore.
III. Accordingly Jews and Christians are called
a. To address these challenges and to do the utmost to ensure that the Divine Image, (Genesis 1:27) in which all humanity is created, is respected and fostered fully among migrant and refugee populations.
b. To recognize immigrants as a blessed resource to be welcomed and respected for their human dignity, and as potential to contribute to the positive growth and development of society.
c. To help influence public opinion and legislatures to regulate and more effectively implement immigration procedures, mindful of the preferred destinations of migrants themselves.
6. The Bilateral Commission was treated to a presentation on Israeli initiatives to address the plight of refugees and victims of conflict.
Rabbi Rasson Arousi (Chairman of the Jewish Delegation)
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson (Chairman of the Catholic Delegation)
Rabbi David Brodman
Patriarch Fouad Twal
Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber
Archbishop Bruno Forte
Rabbi David Rosen
Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto
Mr Oded Wiener
Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo
Rabbi Shmuel Shapira
Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M.
Msgr. Pier Francesco Fumagalli
Father Norbert Hofmann, S.D.B.

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