(March 14) - Despite Catholic attempts to arrive at a new understanding of Jews and Judaism, there is often a sense that Jews disapprove of everything that the Church tries to do, says Cardinal Edward Cassidy, president of the Pontifical Council for Religious Relations with the Jews.
Speaking at a seminar yesterday with a group of Jewish and Catholic leaders active in inter-faith activities, Cassidy spoke of what he described as a Jewish "theology of protest." One of the latest instances, he said, was in relation to the Vatican document, "We Remember," which concerned the Holocaust.
"The reactions were very disappointing to us. It seems as if whatever we do is wrong," he said.
Cassidy also noted that many Jews are unaware of the strides made by the Church since Vatican II, the conference which pioneered the reversal of traditional Roman Catholic views about Jews and Judaism. He said that when he spoke to a group of young Jewish leaders in the US, most of whom born after Vatican II, they said no one had ever told them about these changes in the Church.
However, in a public address yesterday afternoon, he stressed the tremendous effect of Pope John Paul II's visit on Christians and Jews alike. A poll taken immediately after the visit showed a dramatic change in Israeli Jewish attitudes towards Christianity. The visit also had a dramatic effect on the Church officials who accompanied the pope.
"For those of us who had the immense joy and privilege of sharing those moments in person, there was the conviction that all that had been done in the second half of the last century to mend the broken and blood-stained fences between Christians and Jews had received the seal of God's blessing and could never be again undone," he said.
Cassidy also discussed the special relationship the Church has adopted with the Jewish people. He noted that while still a young archbishop of Cracow, the future pope had signed a declaration that the Jews remained very close to God since God does not take back gifts He bestowed or choices He made."
This document, Cassidy said, cancelled the old teaching that the Church had come to substitute for Judaism. It also clarified that the Jews were not collectively responsible for the death of Jesus.
Cassidy also referred to the "Dominus Jesus" document, published last September by the Doctrine of Faith concerning the absolute truth of Catholic doctrine. But, he stressed, the document did not address Christian-Jewish relations, only Christian relations with other religions.
"The Catholic Church does not consider the faith of Israel one among the other religions of the world," he said, adding that Judaism had an absolutely special relationship with Christianity.
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