Catholic Bishops Give Up on Converting Jews
U.S. bishops’ group to remove controversial passage from June statement
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement in June intending to clarify its position on relations with Jews. While it had been understood, at least since the publication of a 2002 document “Reflections on Covenant and Mission,” that Catholics respected Jews’ unique covenant with God, which “must not be curtailed by seeking the conversion of the Jewish people,” the new statement specified that “the Christian dialogue partner is always giving witness to the following of Christ, to which all are implicitly invited.”
This language raised a red flag to Jewish leaders, who saw a backtracking away from the revolution in Jewish-Catholic relations brought on by the Second Vatican Council in 1965, and a coalition quickly responded with an official letter detailing their disappointment. In August, Eric J. Greenberg, the Anti-Defamation League’s associate director of interfaith affairs and one of the primary authors of the letter, explained his concern to Tablet Magazine: “Based on the last 45 years, the Catholics and Jews have a special relationship.” The new statement, he said then, “invites us to apostasy. We need to be vigilant because the stakes are so high based on our history.” Rabbi Gil Rosenthal, executive director of the National Council of Synagogues, told Tablet he was dismayed by the “implication that every time we meet there is a subliminal desire to bring us into the church.”
Their protest paid off. The JTA reports:
In a letter to the Jewish groups, the bishops said it would change the document to eliminate the disputed passage and affirmed that Catholic-Jewish dialogue “has never been and will never be used by the Catholic Church as a means of proselytism … nor is it a disguised invitation to baptism.” They also said the Mosaic covenant—a conditional covenant made between God and the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-24)—“endures till the present day.”
The Jewish coalition has responded with gratitude: “We welcome the fact that the bishops not only heard our concerns, but are making efforts to be responsive to them.”
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