Terminal Care. Photo: File

Jewish and Catholic Considerations on Care in Terminal Illness: What Is Prohibited, What Is Permitted, What Is Obligatory

Text of the considerations on care in terminal illness issued jointly by Jews and Catholics.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

ZENIT News / Jerusalem, 05.12.2023).- The 17th meeting of the Bilateral Commission of Delegations of the Grand Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism took place in Jerusalem from May 2-4, 2023, on the theme: “Jewish and Catholic Considerations on Care in Terminal Illness: What Is Prohibited, What Is Permitted, What Is Obligatory.”

Here is a translation of the Joint Document issued by the two sides on terminal illness. 

* * *

Bilateral Commission of the Grand Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jewish People (17th meeting)

Jewish and Catholic considerations on care in terminal illness: what is prohibited, what is permitted, what is obligatory

Jerusalem, May 2-4 2023 / 11-13 lyyar 5783

Joint Declaration

1.Chief Rabbi Arussi welcomed the Delegations in the opening reception, pointing out that it was five years since meetings of the Bilateral Commission had been held due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hence, he expressed his special joy for this meeting. The Delegations wished the Chief Rabbi a speedy recovery from his illness and the reestablishment of his full health. Mr. Yehudah Cohen, recently appointed Director General of the Grand Rabbinate of Israel, also expressed his welcome and appreciation for the work of the Bilateral Commission and its importance for the whole society.

2. The reflections, which began the following day, pondered further on the theme the Bilateral Commission had addressed in its 6th meeting on human life and technology, in light of the notable advances in medical science.

3. The address on the Catholic side illustrated the guiding principles related to the care of terminal patients, starting from Pope Francis’ warning regarding the “contemporary socio-cultural context that diminishes progressively the understanding of human life.”

4.Therefore, the dignity of every human being — which for Jews and Catholics stems from the affirmation of the sacred character of human life –, was proclaimed again, in keeping with the Declaration of the Bilateral Commission issued in Rome in February of 2006 / Shevat 5766:

“We affirm the principles of our respective religious traditions that God is the Creator and Lord of all life, and that human life is sacred because, as the Bible teaches, the human person has been created in the divine image (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). Given that life is a divine gift that must be respected and preserved, we repudiate decisively the idea of human dominion over life and the right of any person or human group  to decide on its value or duration. Consequently, we repudiate the concept of active euthanasia (so-called merciful homicide) as an illegitimate human pretension regarding the exclusive divine authority to determine the moment of death of the human person.” Moreover, “in this regard, we reaffirm the teachings of our traditions, according to which all human knowledge and abilities must serve to promote human life and dignity and, therefore, to be in consonance with the moral values stemming from the principles mentioned before. Consequently, there must be limits to the scientific and technological application, recognizing the fact that not everything that is technically feasible is also ethical.”

6. Special emphasis was given to the importance of palliative care and all possible efforts to alleviate pain and suffering. Reference was also made to the historic Joint Declaration of the three Abrahamic religions, rejecting active euthanasia and medically assisted suicide, published in the Vatican on October 28, 2019 / 29 Tishri 5780.

7. For Jews and Christians, to care for terminal patients with faith, respect and love, means truly to shine a light of trust and hope, in a moment marked by darkness and the sensation of loneliness and abandonment, both for the patients as well as their dear ones.

8. Session II addressed the guidelines for terminal patients, legislated in harmony with the Jewish tradition and its global ramifications. The distinction was stressed between actions that cause death and options of omission beyond basic human needs; as well as between active euthanasia and assisted suicide by a doctor, on one hand, and, on the other, the interruption of continued therapeutic treatments (such as ventilations and pacemakers ) or the prolongation of life beyond basic human needs (such as dialysis and chemotherapy).

9. The Delegations acknowledged that the ethical and religious complexities that situations entail at the end of life demand that each case is considered in relation with its particular circumstances and needs.

10.The Delegations were received by the Director General of the Shaare Zedeq Hospital, where they were able to see how terminal patients are treated in keeping with the principles set out.

11.The members of the delegation thank God the Creator, invoking His Blessing upon all the sick and all those dedicated to taking care of and protecting life.


Translation of the Italian original into Spanish by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation