The International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC), which oversees dialogue between the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jewis and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), held is twenty-second meeting in Madrid. Meeting October 13-16, the gathering was co-chaired by Betty Ehrenberg, chair of IJCIC and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.
The theme of the discussion was “Challenges for Religion in Contemporary Society.” At its conclusion, participants issued a joint declaration on a number of points:
1. Our Shared Heritage
Jews and Christians share the heritage of the biblical testimony of God's relationship with the human family throughout history. Our Scriptures bear witness to both individuals and the people as a whole being called, taught, guided and protected by Divine Providence. In light of this sacred history, Catholic and Jewish participants in the meeting responded to emerging opportunities and difficulties facing religious belief and practice in today's world.
2. Religious Freedom
Encouraged in our work by Pope Francis' expressions of his concern for the universal welfare of all, particularly the poor and the oppressed, we share the belief in the God-given dignity of every individual. This requires that each person be accorded full freedom of conscience and freedom of religious expression individually and institutionally, privately and publicly. We deplore the abuse of religion, the use of religion for political ends. Both Jews and Catholics condemn persecution on religious grounds.
3. Persecution of Christians
The ILC recommends to the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and IJCIC to work together on situations involving the persecution of Christian minorities worldwide as they arise; to call attention to these problems and to support efforts to guarantee full citizenship to all citizens regardless of religious or ethnic identity in the Middle East and beyond. Further, we encourage efforts to promote the well-being of minority Christian and Jewish communities throughout the Middle East.
4. The Rise of Anti-Semitism
As Pope Francis has repeatedly said, 'a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite'. We encourage all religious leaders to continue to be a strong voice against this sin. The celebration of the 50th anniversary of 'Nostra Aetate' in 2015 is a privileged moment in which to reaffirm its condemnation of anti-Semitism. We urge that anti-Semitic teachings be eliminated from preaching and textbooks everywhere in the world. Similarly, any expression of anti-Christian sentiment is equally unacceptable.
We recommend that all Jewish and Catholic seminaries include instruction about “Nostra Aetate” and the subsequent documents of the Holy See implementing the Council's Declaration in their curricula. As a new generation of Jewish and Catholic leaders arises, we underscore the profound ways that 'Nostra Aetate' changed the relationship between Jews and Catholics. It is imperative that the next generation embrace these teachings and ensure that they reach every corner of the world.
In the face of these challenges, we Catholics and Jews renew our commitment to educate our own respective communities in the knowledge of and respect for each other”.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.