ICCJ letter to Pope Benedict XVI

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City

Heppenheim, 29 January 2009

Your Holiness,

The Executive Board of the ICCJ wishes to express its profound dismay at recent developments in relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish community. The Catholic Church has led the way for many decades in seeking to reverse centuries of dismissive theologies and hostile attitudes toward Jews, promoting honest and open conversation based on mutual respect and equality as co-heirs in covenant.

Ironically, the most recent disturbing event has occurred near the fiftieth anniversary of the summoning of the Second Vatican Council by Blessed Pope John XXIII. We refer to last week’s lifting of the 1988 excommunications of four bishops illicitly consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

We recognize that this is an internal matter of Catholic jurisprudence. We also recognize that the immediate cause of the excommunication was the illicit ordination of four individuals as bishops, in violation of the wishes of Pope John Paul II. It was not, as some have supposed, because these people were leaders in the Society of Saint Pius X, which explicitly rejects many of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, including the groundbreaking Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.

Nevertheless, the televised interview on 21 January 2009 of one of the formerly excommunicated bishops ― denying that six million Jews were slaughtered in the Nazi Holocaust, and denying the use of gas chambers ― is upsetting to many Christians and Jews, particular against the background of other SSPX-related assertions that propagate the antisemitism of such writings as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Statements issued in the last few days by the SSPX do not suggest any intention on their part to renounce such views.

To its credit, the SSPX has distanced itself from Bishop William’s denial of the Holocaust and forbidden him to speak publicly on historical matters. However, its website purveys several ideas in tension with or contradicting the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church expressed in Nostra Aetate. The Society should publicly and explicitly endorse that conciliar declaration.

The sense of scandal being felt by many is not alleviated by claims that the private historical beliefs of the parties involved are irrelevant to a Church that has deplored, “the hatred, persecutions and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at any time and by anyone” (Nostra Aetate, 4; forcefully reiterated by Pope John Paul II at the Synagogue of Rome, 13 April 1986).

Although it might be argued that reconciliation with Catholics who have been disenchanted for decades is a higher internal priority than continuing rapprochement with the Jewish people whose traditions have been delegitimized for centuries, it remains difficult to understand the lack of private, open communication between Catholic and Jewish leaders in advance of this decision. Commitment to “genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant” (Pope John Paul II’s prayer at the Mass of Pardon, 12 March 2000 and at the Western Wall, 26 March 2000) would seem to require the courtesy of prior conversation about a subject that so deeply touches Jewish lives. Conducting interreligious discussion through the media is a perilous venture.

The Executive Board of the ICCJ urges that the injury inflicted on Jewish-Christian relations by this internal Catholic action be publicly remedied as soon as possible by unambiguous clarifying statements from the highest levels of the Catholic Church reasserting all aspects of Nostra Aetate and that priority be given by both Jewish rabbinical and advocacy groups and Catholic officials in the Holy See and national bishops conferences to reviving frank and direct channels of communication between Catholic and Jewish leaders.
On behalf of the Executive Board of the ICCJ I remain respectfully yours,

Dr Deborah Weissman
President

ICCJ Statement on Gaza

The International Council of Christians and Jews issued the following statement today:

14 January 2009
International Council of Christians and Jews

Statement

We, the members of the Executive Board of the International Council of Christians and Jews, are deeply distressed and saddened by the current round of violence in the Middle East. We have always affirmed our commitment to the survival and security of the State of Israel. At the same time, we grieve for the loss of innocent lives on both sides.

Despite the political and ideological questions that may divide us, we re-affirm our common commitments to the sanctity of human life, the pursuit of peace as a religious imperative, and the importance of inter-religious and inter-group dialogue.

Of particular concern to us is the outbreak of antisemitic incidents, some violent, in different parts of the world, seemingly in response to the current difficult situation. There have also been incidents of discrimination against innocent Muslims living outside the region. We deplore this tendency to import the conflict into other regions.

We pray that the fighting will end as soon as possible and that Palestinians and Israelis will be able once again to sit together and resolve their conflict through negotiations based on mutual acceptance.

Dr Deborah Weissman
President

Christians and Jews to Boycott TV3

CHRISTIANS AND JEWS BOYCOTT TV3

The Wellington Council of Christians and Jews is urging their congregants to boycott TV3 for one week starting this Thursday, 8 November. The action is a response to TV3’s airing of “Californication”, in which a nun gives oral sex to a lead character in front of a statue of Christ.

“Freedom of expression is a fundamental right”, said Harold Klug, the Jewish Co-Chair of the Council. “But TV3 is intentionally insulting and hurting large numbers of religious people in this country. We’re asking the general public to stand with us in an appropriate response – not watching TV3 for a week.”

Rev John McCaul, the Christian Co-chair said, “TV3’s actions may be legal, but they’re morally wrong. We encourage people to change the channel, and write a letter to TV3.”