B’nai B’rith Sees Welcome Contributions, Also Challenges, In New Vatican Document On Relations With Jews
Text Reaffirms Avoidance of Targeting Jews for Conversion
The Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews today issued a new document entitled, “The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable.” The document reinforces key pillars of the modern Catholic-Jewish relationship, affirming that the Catholic Church disapproves of targeted efforts to convert Jews.
The new document also emphasizes the need for “combating all manifestations of racial discrimination against Jews and all forms of anti-Semitism,” both in light of history’s tragic demonstration of “where even the slightest perceptible forms of anti-Semitism can lead” and the “Jewish roots of Christianity” itself.
At the same time, while “The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable” reiterates rejection of the notion that “Jews are excluded from God’s salvation” because of their inability to believe in the divinity of Jesus, it rebuffs as incompatible with Christian faith a doctrine that would see equal legitimacy in a “Jewish path without Christ” alongside Christianity.
Although it is for Catholics to determine their own theology, this position—undergirded by an implicit expectation of Jewish conversion that surfaced in Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 reauthorization of a version of a Good Friday prayer for Jews to “acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Savior of all”—is a source of remaining discomfort in an otherwise blossoming friendship.
“The Gifts and the Calling of God” does not include reference to the centrality of Israel in Jewish life, though there have been prior Vatican acknowledgements—including privately by Pope Francis himself—that anti-Zionism or anti-Israeli violence constitute forms of anti-Semitism.
B’nai B’rith International welcomes the text’s call for Catholic educational institutions to integrate in their curricula relevant church documents including “Nostra aetate,” the 1965 Second Vatican Council declaration that helped remake Catholic-Jewish ties, as well as its encouraging of further partnership to concretely promote “justice, peace, conservation of creation, and reconciliation.”
Through dialogue, practical partnership and humanitarian services alike, B’nai B’rith has long been exceptionally dedicated to advancing the Catholic-Jewish bond worldwide. B’nai B’rith leaders met privately with Pope Francis and other senior church officials most recently in June, at the Vatican.