Vatican document calls on Catholics to stop trying to convert Jews and to fight anti-Semitism

Document clarifies Church’s stance on proselytization of Jews as well as “the Catholic Church feels particularly obliged to do all that is possible with our Jewish friends to repel anti-Semitic tendencies”

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The Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews released a new document entitled ‘The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable’ marking not only the 50th anniversary of the Nostra aetate (The Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions), but also calls on Catholics to not try to convert Jews to Christianity and to actively combat anti-Semitism.

The reaffirmation and clarity made in the document on Catholic-Jewish relations comes from efforts from Pope Francis and Catholic theologians amidst increased anti-Semitism globally, as well as efforts made by the church to clarify its stance on proselytization of Jews.

The document states “Christianity and Judaism are intertwined and God never annulled his covenant with the Jewish people,” and “In concrete terms means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews… The Church is therefore obliged to view evangelization to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views.”

The document clarifies that “Although Jews cannot believe in Jesus Christ as the universal redeemer, they have a part in salvation, because the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

Pope Francis stated on the declaration “The Christian confessions find their unity in Christ; Judaism finds its unity in the Torah. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh in the world; for Jews the Word of God is present above all in the Torah. Both faith traditions find their foundation in the One God, the God of the Covenant, who reveals himself through his Word. In seeking a right attitude towards God, Christians turn to Christ as the fount of new life, and Jews to the teaching of the Torah.”

The document states that “Unity and difference between Judaism and Christianity come to the fore in the first instance with the testimonies of divine revelation. With the existence of the Old Testament as an integral part of the one Christian Bible, there is a deeply rooted sense of intrinsic kinship between Judaism and Christianity. The roots of Christianity lie in the Old Testament, and Christianity constantly draws nourishment from these roots. However, Christianity is grounded in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who is recognized as the Messiah promised to the Jewish people, and as the only begotten Son of God who has communicated himself through the Holy Spirit following his death on the cross and his resurrection.”

On anti-Semitism, the document clearly reaffirms the words of Pope Francis that “A Christian can never be an anti-Semite, especially because of the Jewish roots of Christianity,” citing the “goal of Jewish-Catholic dialogue consists in jointly combatting all manifestations of racial discrimination against Jews and all forms of anti-Semitism, which have certainly not yet been eradicated and re-emerge in different ways in various contexts.”

Specific to the Holocaust, it states, “History teaches us where even the slightest perceptible forms of anti-Semitism can lead: the human tragedy of the Shoah [Holocaust] in which two-thirds of European Jewry were annihilated. Both faith traditions are called to maintain together an unceasing vigilance and sensitivity in the social sphere as well. Because of the strong bond of friendship between Jews and Catholics, the Catholic Church feels particularly obliged to do all that is possible with our Jewish friends to repel anti-Semitic tendencies.”

The document additionally recognizes and addresses Israel’s Christian community and the importance of “Jewish-Christian dialogue” as “the situation of Christian communities in the state of Israel is of great relevance, since there – as nowhere else in the world – a Christian minority faces a Jewish majority. Peace in the Holy Land – lacking and constantly prayed for – plays a major role in dialogue between Jews and Christians.”