Mark Silk. Welcome to this discussion of the Vaticans recent statement on the
Holocaust. The twentieth century has presented no more troubling issue regarding religion
in public life than the Holocaust, or Shoah. The destruction of European Jewry has
come to be seenat least in this countryas the great paradigm of evil in our
time. For Jews, it was the culmination of centuries of persecution in Europe by people who
considered themselves Christians. In that respect, the rejection of anti-Jewish actions
and theology by the Roman Catholic Church from the Second Vatican Council to the present
day has been a singularly important religious development in the history of the West. In a
world where there are a billion Catholics, its also just plain good news for the 15
For all that, the Church was, among other things, a political player during the Nazi
period. For the Vatican to take it upon itself to reflect on how members of the Church,
and the hierarchy itself, behaved during the Holocaust was, to say nothing else, no easy
or simple task. If we just think of the controversy that broke out when the Smithsonian
tried to include mention of Japanese deaths in its exhibit of the airplane that dropped
the first atomic bomb, we can understand how heavily freighted are questions involving the
morality of large entities such as nation states and religious institutions, especially
for those who belong to them. At issue in the present case are complicated issues of
theology, of history, of counterfactual judgments about what might or could or should have
been, and indeed of present-day interfaith relations.
To help us sort all of this out we have a very distinguished group of panelists. Before
I introduce them, let me say that each will give a short presentation, to be followed by
discussion among themselves, and finally by questions from the floor. This is a very
emotional subject, but the object here is to cast more light rather than to generate more
Our first speaker will be Philip Cunningham, professor of theology at Notre Dame
College in Manchester, New Hampshire, and co-director of the colleges Shalom Center
for Understanding Between Christians and Jews. A leading writer and thinker on the subject
of Jewish-Catholic relations, he was at the Vatican in late March to present a paper at
the sixteenth meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committeea paper
entitled "What Are We and How Should We Be Teaching About Jews and Judaism in
Catholic Religion Textbooks?" Phil will talk about what he sees as the strengths and
weaknesses of the Vatican statement.
He will be followed by Jerome Chanes, program director for the National Foundation for
Jewish Culture, and formerly national affairs director for what was then called the
National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council. In the latter capacity he was
involved at the outset in the process that led to the Vatican statement, and he will talk
about its history and meaning from the Jewish side. Jerome, I should mention, is the
author of numerous articles and editor of an important volume of essays on anti-Semitism
After Jerome we will hear from Rabbi James Rudin, the national interreligious affairs
director of the American Jewish Committee, an organization for which he has worked since
1968which I think makes him one of the oldest and savviest hands around when it
comes to interfaith relations. Along the way he has participated in no fewer than seven
meetings with Pope John Paul II, and has taken part in conferences with the World Council
of Churches in Geneva and with Eastern Orthodox leaders in Greece. He has also been
involved in Polish-Jewish relations, Black-Jewish relations, and Arab-Jewish relations; he
writes a regular weekly column for the Religion News Service; and is author of Israel
for Christians: Understanding Modern Israelto name just a handful of his
manifold accomplishments. Jim will talk about the Vatican statement in its current
Finally, we will hear from Rev. Bryan Hehir, professor at the Harvard Divinity School,
member of the Executive Committee of the Harvard Center for International Affairs, and
counselor to Catholic Relief Services in Baltimore. From 1973 to 1992, Bryan served in
Washington at the U.S. Catholic Conference and at Georgetown University. At the Conference
he directed the Office of International Affairs and was secretary of the Department of
Social Development and World Peace. He is a prolific writer on an incredibly wide variety
of subjects, and is generally regarded as without peer among Catholic thinkers on policy
issues today. Im proud to say that nine years ago he received an honorary degree
from Trinity College.
And so, without further delayPhil.
Philip Cunningham: Good afternoon and thank you for the honor of
being on this panel. What I would like to do is begin by making a few introductory
comments. Then Ill highlight some areas that seem to many folks, myself included, to
be weaknesses in We Remember. Next Ill mention several strengths that the
document also has. Ill end with some final conclusions.
Let me make three introductory observations that should help guide a
reading of the text. First: Who is the intended audience? As indicated in its opening
paragraphs, the document is addressed to the Catholic Church throughout the world. It also
invites consideration by all Christians. Most especially, it asks our Jewish friends to
hear these reflections of the Catholic Church "with open hearts."
Now, I want to point out that this is an extremely diverse readership,
an extremely diverse intended audience. From a personal perspective, this strikes me in a
particular way. My wife and I are the proud and happy parents of two Filipino children.
The Philippines is the largest Catholic country in Asia. When Asian Filipino Catholics
read We Remember, it might be their very first encounter with the Shoah and
the Catholic Churchs role or lack thereof in it. So, many of the ideas and concepts
in this document will be brand new to a readership that distant from the scene of the
On the other hand, the Jewish audience that is also invited to react to
the document, especially those who were victimized by the Shoah, will naturally
read the text with a whole different background and sensitivity to the issues involved. So
my first point is that there are some interesting problems in writing for such a diverse
Secondly, the document entitles itself a reflection on the Shoah.
The use of the word "reflection" means that the document is not to be understood
as the last word that the Vatican will have on the subject, but simply as a statement at
this point in time that will no doubt be augmented and supplemented in the future. As Mark
mentioned in the beginning, this text should also be read in the context of previous
Vatican documents on Catholic-Jewish relations. These are Nostra Aetate, issued by
the Second Vatican Council in 1965; the 1974 Guidelines and Suggestions for
Implementing the Conciliar Document Nostra Aetate, No. 4, issued by the same
Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews that composed We Remember,
and the Commissions 1985 Notes on the Correct Way to Present Jews and Judaism in
Preaching and Teaching in the Roman Catholic Church. We Remember is thus the
fourth Vatican document in an ongoing, evolving process and it would be a good idea to
keep that in mind when reading it.
And lastly, an introductory comment about the Vatican itself: We who
are somewhat distant, across an ocean from the Vatican, sometimes fall into the trap of
thinking of it as a monolithic institution. In fact, like any large organization it is
composed of various departments and offices each of which has its own agendas and goals.
For someone like me, whose background is in Biblical criticism, its tempting to do
some source critical analysis on the document and try to discern which hands were involved
in its different sections. So remember when reading it that it is, in a sense, a committee
Having made these introductory points, let me highlight the area of
weakness in the text. My first item concerns ecclesiology, or the theology of Church. The
word "Church" is used in the document in a way that is not the way most people
use that word. I am making a theological comment here. When the document uses the word
"Church," it is thinking not simply of the human beings acting in history that
are part of the Catholic community. It is thinking of the Mystical Body of Christ and its
relationship to the divine through a covenant in Christ. With that theological
perspective, you find in the text a distinction between the Church acting in history and
the Church as the holy, mystical Bride of Christ. Consequently, when someone who is using
the word Church in a more conventional way reads a sentence such as, "We regret the
failures of sons and daughters of the Church," it sounds like there is a distancing
going on here, or an attempt to remove the Church from responsibility. I think that the
weakness of this rather technical use of the word "Church" is that it easily
allows for confusion. The document could have explained its usage and perhaps avoided some
I might add that, according to Cardinal Cassidy, the president of the
Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews that produced this document, the phrase
"sons and daughters of the Church" should not be misinterpreted to mean simply
the laity. "Sons and daughters" was intended by him to mean everyone in the
Church, from "the pope on down to the youngest babe newly baptized." This might
not be self-evident in a first reading, and combined with a misapprehension in the use of
the word "Church," it has given rise to considerable misconceptions.
Continuing on the subject of ecclesiology or Church, I would also point
out that the document impinges on certain issues about how the Churchs official
teaching authority functioned with regard to the Christian teaching of contempt for Jews
over the centuries. There is an inner debate going on within Roman Catholicism about the
workings of what is called "the ordinary magisterium." And so, for reasons that
dont directly have to do with Jewish-Catholic relations, there were theological and
ecclesiological forces at work in how this document treated the habitual negative
Christian teaching about Jews.
A second area of weakness concerns the Shoah and Christian
activity during it. Again, it sometimes sounds as if the active participation of
Christians in the Shoah is not recognized by the document. The text is not
forthright in this regard, particularly in one sentence. In response to the question of
whether Christians rendered to Jews all the help they could have, the document replies,
"Many did, but others did not." This is a singularly weak and ill-conceived
formulation. In reality, some did and most did not. Again, this rather ambiguous, murky
expression only contributes to the impression of some that there is a tap dance going on.
Regarding the origins of Nazism, the document makes a rather rigid
distinction between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism. Anti-Judaism is antipathy to Jews and
Jewish tradition for religious reasons. Anti-Semitism, on the other hand, includes racist
ideologies which are foreign to Christian teaching. Now there is a legitimate way in which
there certainly is a distinction between the two. However, if you are on the receiving end
of antipathy or hostile action, in some ways its originating causes just dont really
matter. Moreover, the document seems to overlook the fact that anti-Judaism and
anti-Semitism cannot be treated as polar, dichotomous opposites. They seldom occur in
isolation from each other and always reinforce one another. Numerous examples of this
could be made in terms of Nazi graphic propaganda, for example.
The documents treatment of Pope Pius XII occurs mostly in lengthy
footnote 16. The weakness of the treatment there is that it is unbalanced and doesnt
acknowledge at all the possibility that there could be legitimate debate about the
popes decisions during his papacy. To my mind, a statement to the effect that
"in the midst of the crisis it was difficult for Catholic leaders to determine which
course of action would be most effective," would have been a helpful and inarguable
My last comment about a weakness concerns the documents
discussion of the Shoah in relation to other similar events. There is a paragraph
in section four stating that the Church condemns many genocides that have taken place. I
think this is most appropriate and should be welcomed. The atrocities mentioned include
the Armenian genocide and the killing fields in Cambodia. However, at the end there is the
phrase, "nor can we forget the drama of the Middle East, the elements of which are
well-known." These elements were not articulated, and one wonders why the Middle East
is mentioned in a group of genocidal activities. Mention of the Middle East is
understandable, but the context here seems strange.
Now Ill move to what I consider to be the more numerous areas of
strength in the document. First, the text is quite emphatic and unambiguous in recognizing
the Shoah as a historical reality that was directed against Jews solely because
they were Jewsnot for political reasons, not for opposition to the
governmentbut because of their Jewishness. This is repeated several times.
This means that any historical revisionists who try to deny or minimize the Shoah now
have to reckon with the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. I think this point
should not be overlooked.
Second, the document reiterates what earlier documents and papal
speeches have stated; namely, that there is an intrinsic relationship between the Catholic
Church and the Jewish people and tradition. It is precisely because of that close kinship
(the pope, for instance, is quoted as referring to the Jews as "elder brothers")
that the Catholic Church must pay great heed to the affliction of the Jewish community
during the Shoah.
Third, the document calls for Christian self-examination, for Christian
repentance and for teshuva. Our Jewish friends will recognize this as a very
powerful word from the Hebrew tradition. It doesnt simply mean an apology or some
sort of admission of guilt. It is a total returning, a transformation of oneself. For
Cardinal Cassidy, who I think first used this word in 1990 in Poland, the use of teshuva
in a Catholic context means that the Church is being called to transform itself in its
entirety. This is an enormous undertaking that will take time. But that this commitment to
transformation is a strength of the We Remember should be reiterated in no
Fourth, the document calls for further research and reflection in a
variety of academic disciplines and for ongoing interreligious dialogue. It also calls for
a "moral and religious memory," particularly among Christians, about the Shoah
and what gave rise to it. In other words, it is starting a process for the universal
Church, not concluding one.
Fifth, the document rejects wrong interpretations of the New Testament
that could lead to feelings of animosity toward Jews or negative attitudes toward Judaism.
This, incidentally, reinforces a statement made by the Pontifical Biblical Commission in a
document of a few years ago that absolutely forbids Catholics to interpret the New
Testament in any way than can create antipathy toward Jews. The Catholic Church believes
that such interpretations of the Bible are erroneous. That this is reiterated here in the
context of a reflection on the Shoah is significant.
Sixth, there is a strength in the fact that the We Remember
raised the question of the relationship of the Christian teaching of contempt for Jews
over the centuries to the occurrence of the Shoah. It was raised in a number of
different forms and a number of different times in the document. Critics, perhaps
correctly, have faulted the document for not attempting to answer the question very well.
But the very fact that these questions have been raised in the context of inviting
Catholic and other Christians to probe seriously their consciences in terms of the Shoah
is very important. It means to me as a Catholic theologian that I cannot do my work, if it
in any way impinges on the Shoah and on the Catholic and Jewish relationship, if I
do not reckon with the history of the Christian teaching of contempt. I understand this as
a sort of mandate for Catholic theologians. Even though the document doesnt answer
its own questions, it asks the right ones.
The seventh and final strength that I wish to mention is the
documents forceful and unambiguous condemnation of anti-Semitism. It is recognized
as a sin that is completely contrary to the Church and to the essence of Christianity.
This denunciation is repeated several times in the document.
In conclusion, I find that although We
Remember has serious weaknesses for which it can be legitimately criticized, these are
outweighed by the documents important strengths. As with its predecessors, Nostra
Aetate and the Vatican Guidelines and Notes, this text has also been
greeted initially with expressions of disappointment and criticism. However, the earlier
documents have shown that their real significance only becomes manifest over time. Time
has shown that their impact on the Catholic Church and on Catholic-Jewish relations has
been enormous despite their flaws. Therefore, my conclusion is that the strengths of We
Remember will transcend its weaknesses and that its effect on Catholic-Jewish
relations in the long-term will therefore be a tremendously positive and important one.
Jerome Chanes: Good afternoon. There are many definitions of interreligious
relationships. My favoriteand probably the bestis: An
interreligious relationships is an unnatural act engaged in by partially consenting
adultsfollowing an opening prayer.
This one-liner tells us a lot about the state of Catholic-Jewish relations over the
past three-plus decades as Jews and Christians continue to negotiate the terrain illumined
by Nostra Aetate, the Vatican document that defined for Catholics their
relationship with Jews; and particularly as we try to probe why Jews did not react with
orgasmic fervor to the recently issued We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah.
It is commonplace in 1998 to characterize Christian-Jewish relations, in the words of
Jim Rudin, as "one of the 20th century's few and great success stories." And
Rudin is right; the effort to build constructive relations between Jews and
Christiansoriginally an effort, let me recall for us, which got under way in
order to counter anti-Semitism in the Christian communityhas been
Catholic-Jewish relations plays out in five fundamental areas: anti-Semitism; the
Holocaust; Israel; "Mission," often the most sensitive area, always the most
difficult for Jews to understand; and, highly important for Americans, public-policy
"We Remember: Reflections on the Shoah" implicates at least two
of these areas anti-Semitism and Holocaustand is therefore unusually
sensitive, for both Christians and Jews alike. (By the way, there is no unanimity amongst
Jews about the use of the word "Shoah" to describe, characterize, or name
the destruction of European Jewry under Hitlerism. This relatively recent locution
replaced a word that had been the accepted name. Many Jews have preferred the simpler,
more stark locution "Hurban"
"Destruction"the destruction of European Jewry, the Hurban Europa,
rather than the somewhat artificial "Shoah" or the theologically laden
I think that we need to look at the Vatican document from two historical perspectives:
Catholic and Jewish. I will not be presumptuous, in the presence of my mentor Bryan Hehir,
to develop an historical analysis of Catholic thought; but I will take the liberty of
laying out a bit of recent papal history.
From the Catholic perspective: The thesis and I thank Father John Pawlikowski
for suggesting some of this analysis is that the lack of a human-rights perspective
curtailed the Catholic institutional response to Nazism. Going back a couple of centuries,
even Catholic liberals who claimed a Christian basis for liberal principles were
castigated by the Church as attempting to overthrow the prevailing social order. We look
at this unfortunate tradition along a time-line, examining the records of four popes. From
Pope Gregory XVIs 1832 encyclical Mirari Vos against the "evils" of
"shameless lovers of liberty"; through his successor Pius IXwho was
probably more sympathetic to human rights, but who reacted strongly to
mid-nineteenth-century challenges to Vatican sovereignty by voicing his opposition to
liberalism in his 1864 "Syllabus of Errors" through the next pope, Leo
XIII, who, with his accession in 1878 brought a breath of moderation to the Vatican. We
all know of the first social-justice encyclical, Rerum Novarum, issued by Leo in
response to the challenge of unionization of the working class, the encyclical defended
the dignity of the working class. What we forget is that Rerum Novarum was framed
in a classic Thomist context that was not friendly to liberal or human-rights ideals.
Jump to the 1930s, and to anxiety amongst Catholic leaders (and Protestants as well)
over Weimars liberal modelin part associated with Jewsand to
Pope Pius XI. Pius XI (encyclical Quadregesimo Anno1931) proposed an
organic notion of society rooted heavily in a medieval Catholic social vision that was not
exactly friendly to liberalism and social justice.
My point is that the two popes of the era of the destruction of European Jewry, Pius XI
and Pius XII, worked within the framework of a century-long crusade against liberal
ideals. They may not have been lovers of fascismPius XI was the author
of Mit Brennende Sorge, denouncing Nazismbut fascism (and even Nazism)
became a preferred option (preferred over communism) from their, Catholic, perspective
for defending Catholic institutional interests in what was perceived a perilous political
world. Within such a framework, the human rights of Jews, and even of largely Catholic
victims such as Gypsies and Poles, had little priority. This all set the stage, in my
view, for how and why the Vatican crafted We Remember.
Now a context from a Jewish perspective. I would suggest three propositions as
context for our discussion of Catholic-Jewish relations. First, there has been more
progress in Catholic-Jewish relations in the past 35 years than in the previous 2,000.
Whatever the "tsoris," the problems, we need to take the long view. Second,
related to the first, begins with a question: if one views Vatican II and Nostra Aetate
as the turning point for Catholic-Jewish relationsdeicide was
repudiated, Catholic-Jewish relations were newly definedif things became so
much better, why do many perceive them as worse? Proposition two: we need to take the very
long view. Again, a time line: the first 20 years after Vatican II, years of euphoria, of
commonality, if not always true dialogue. The next 10 years, years of tension, of the
conflict of agendas, largely over Israel and the Middle East. We are now in a period of
the maturing of the relationship, in which we need to take a look at some of the
fault-lines in the relationship.
Third proposition, not relevant to todays discussion, but nonetheless
noteworthy: it is important to make a crucial distinction between Vatican-Jewish
relations, which have been troubled; and American Catholic-Jewish relations,
which are cordial, and productive, and need to be protected, even as there are points of
In the context of these propositions, how do we evaluate Catholic-Jewish relations in
1998? What is the context for the Vatican document?
First, with respect to the Vatican, we need to look at the pattern of ambivalence that
has characterized its relationship with the Jews, a balance-sheet with two columns. On the
- The April 13, 1986 visit of the Pope to the Great Synagogue of Rome, with the
Popes forthright condemnation of anti-Semitism in the Popes words,
"By anyone." (Having said this, the formulation used by the Pope in his address,
which was picked up by the international press"You are our elder
brothers"should have raised questions among those attuned to the nuanced
language of conversionism.)
- The 1989 papal document on racism, The Church and Racism, specifically
- The 1990 Prague declaration on anti-Semitism, not possible without Vatican sanction.
- Vatican intervention in the Auschwitz convent matter. It was highly unusual that the
Vatican would intervene in the affairs of any bishop. (The Auschwitz convent matter, I
would add parenthetically, was, from the perspective of the Jewish community, a situation
in which the Jewish community snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. It was classic
case of "We have met the enemy and they are us.")
- The 1990 papal call to all churches in Christendom to address issues raised in Nostra
Aetate, specifically the repudiation of anti-Semitism.
- The 1990 Polish bishops' pastoral letter on anti-Semitism, again, not possible without
And so on . . . All "good."
At the same time, a series of
events"flash-points"along a time line. These events,
most taking place in the 1980s and early 1990s, were very different one from the next, but
they painted a collective picture that was a bit murky to many Jews:
- 1982: papal meeting with Arafat. A collective Jewish "Oi."
- 1987: the papal meeting with Kurt Waldheim. At the least, gratuitous; at worst, an
- 1988: papal defense of the conduct of Austrian and German churches during the Nazi
period. Double "Oi."
- 1989: papal homilies expressing supersessionism.
- 1991: serious questions were raised about formulations in the draft of the new catechism
for the Church
- 1991: questions about a papal encyclical on missionary activity
- There was during these years the continued reluctance of the Holy See to normalize
relations with the State of Israel. We can speculate as to the reasons for this
reluctance. The Vatican itself asserted that there was "no theological bar" to
normalization an attempt to quiet Jews who viewed this area as a remnant of
christological anti-Semitism but that normalization was being held up pending
resolution of borders and boundaries. On the face of it, entirely legitimate. But my own
view is that the Vatican was traumatized by the slaughter of 100,000 Maronites in Lebanon;
the Church was legitimately concerned with the fate of Christians in Arab lands. Whatever
the reasons, there was no outbreak of joy in the Jewish community when the Vatican finally
did what it should have done 10 years earlier, when normalization would have been the
courageous, the right thing to do.
(Without going into details in any of these events, one might speculate that what was
happening was that both the voices of change and the voices of reaction
represented mainly by Cardinal Josef Ratzingerwere whispering into the
Popes ear. Cardinal Ratzinger is a particularly influential man. Ratzinger, who
represents some unusually reactionary thinking in the Vatican, is the President of the
Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faithwe knew this Congregation rather well
under its old name, the Inquisitionand he had the ear of the Pope, and the
Pope reportedly had his ear.)
Finally, of course, the matter at hand. Perhaps least noticed at the time, albeit
serious: the announcement in 1986 that the Church would prepare a document on
anti-Semitism, the Church, and the destruction of European Jewry. At the time the document
was entitled "The Shoah, the Historical Background of Ant-Semitism, and its
Contemporary Manifestations." Jewish groups generally received news of this document
But not everyone. I was one of those who raised in writing, at the time, serious
questions about the forthcoming Vatican document. Again, what could be so bad? Here is the
Vatican finally ready to own up to its actions, non-actions, and
responsibilitiesin writing. In an article in the American Jewish Year Book,
I noted that there were questions precisely because the Church is a document-driven
church. Do we want, I asked, precisely this Vatican administrationone
whose track-record was one of ambivalence about Jews and Judaismto write the
definitive Church document on the relationship between the Catholic Church and
anti-Semitism? I and a few others had problems with that proposition.
Parenthetically: All of this in marked contrast to American Catholic-Jewish relations,
in which the Jewish and Catholic communities make common cause over a range of
public-policy issues. To cite two examples: in state houses and legislatures around the
country, Jewish community relations councils and federations coalesce with local bishops
and ministeria to advocate for social-service reimbursement programs; and the National
Conference of Catholic Bishops played an early and important role in vigorous advocacy of
Vatican recognition of Israel.
Where are we?
There is a new and younger generation of Vatican officials addressing issues related to
Jews for whom the Holocaust is not a direct personal experience. This is inevitable, and
therefore the question needs to be posed: will this mean a change in previously shared
With respect to the Vatican document: this is an internal document written first and
foremost for Christian believers. It is an effort to address the doubts within the
Catholic community, to provide some sort of answer for those who cannot understand how the
Church could have stood by in silence whilst six million Jewsand many others
were being slaughtered in the heart of Christian Europe. The Church answers
themChristians, and not Jewsby shifting the blame onto the
shoulders of some Christians of their time, who should have raised their voices and
opposed the Nazis even though their leader, Pope Pius XII, said very little. This is a
harsh indictment, coming from the Church itself, and we need to look at this soberly in
the context laid out earlier in these remarks.
The Vatican document is an answer therefore to Christians. The
answer to Jews is yet forthcoming.
Where do we go? I will deftly but firmly pass the buck on that to my colleagues, Jim
Rudin and Bryan Hehir.
Rabbi James Rudin: I thank Mark Silk for the opportunity to participate in this
I was involved in the origin of the Vatican document which was an outgrowth of the
meeting with the pope in the summer of 1987 in July, just prior to his meeting with
American Jewish leaders in Miami. There was a great deal of consternation whether the pope
was in fact going to be welcomed by the Jewish community and whether he should even come
to Miami. It was at that time in 1987, that a commitment was made by Vatican authorities
that a document on the Shoah would be issued. As a priest told me in Rome,
Europeans and especially Catholic Church leaders increasingly use the word,
"Shoah," rather than Holocaust. I think they are right. Holocaust can be easily
expropriated and used for a host of other things, other places, and other events. The
Hebrew word, "Shoah" can never be expropriated. It can only mean. One thing in
modern usage and for the rest of humanity. So I believe we should follow the
Vaticans lead. "Shoah" is the proper expression.
I strongly believe that after 1945 the word "Holocaust" must always be
spelled with a capital "H" and without any plural ending. Unfortunately, today
the term "Holocaust" is being misused and abused when it is employed to describe
every terrible event currently taking place. Such continued abuse of the word means that
it may ultimately lose its distinctive meaning. For that reason, I commend the Vatican for
using "Shoah" which now and forever can only refer to the destruction of
6,000,000 Jews between 1933 and 1945.
The Vatican document is a permanent refutation of those who deny the reality of the Shoah
as well as those who minimize its horrors. A century from now when all the survivors and
all of us will be gathered to the God of our fathers and mothers, there will still remain
the powerful words of Pope John Paul II, the Pope from Poland, that introduce the 1998
Vatican document: "
the sufferings of the Jewish people during he Second World
War. The crime which has become known as the Shoah remains an indelible stain on
the history of the century
" And in another context, John Paul II has declared:
"This is the century of the Shoah."
Now let me try to point where we may be going in future relations between Catholics and
One area is highly problematic. The Vatican document asks, "did Christians give
every possible assistance to those being persecuted and in particular to the persecuted
Jews? Many did, but others did not." That little phrase, "many did, but others
did not," gives readers the feeling that it was 50-50. 50 percent of Catholics did
help Jews during those terrible years from 1933-45 and perhaps 50 percent didnt.
The reality was not a 50-50 breakdown. Not at all. There needs to be an enormous
discussion on the behavior of individual Christians, not merely Catholics, and of
Christian institutions and Christian bodies, during the 12 years of Nazi German rule.
Another area of intensive discussion in inter-religious relations that will go on well
into the 21st century is the difference between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism,
a centerpiece of the Vatican document. It makes the distinction, which I find not
acceptable, that somehow the Church was anti-Judaism, that is against the Jewish religion,
Jewish religious tradition, but that anti-Semitism, and I certainly would agree, is a
modern, non-Christian, invention of the 19th century.
I dont think we can make such a clean distinction between anti-Semitism, which I
define as hatred of Jews and Judaism, and anti-Judaism. But the Vatican document really
stands or falls on this critical point because it seemingly walks away from anti-Semitism
while acknowledging the existence of ancient anti-Judaism within the Roman Catholic
One of the most overlooked issues is found on page seven of the Vatican document. I
really wonder why it was included. It speaks about the dawn of Christianity, the
crucifixion of Jesus, when there were disputes between the early Church and the Jewish
leaders and people who in "their devotion to the law, on occasion violently opposed
the preachers of the Gospel and the first Christians." That statement is really open
to many interpretations and Im not sure why it belongs in the document on the Shoah.
The words, "violently" opposed, and "devotion to the law," skirt close
to the kind of dichotomy that during the last 33 years we have tried to
eliminateChristianity is love, Judaism is law; one is static, one is dynamic. And
this is the difference between Christianity and Judaism.
And this sentence which most people overlook, because it doesnt relate to World
War II, is an area that is going to generate intense discussion: what was the parting of
the ways between the Nazarenes (the early Christians) and the Jewish community?
Another problematic area: why the Vatican document is loaded up with other friction
areas including Armenians, and a host of other areas of massacres and slaughters, and why
the elliptical and ellusive phrase, "nor can we forget the drama of the Middle East,
the elements of which are well known." I think all of us know what the Vatican is
talking about, but does it really belong here, in this document? But, sadly, since
its in there, there is going to be an enormous amount of discussion on its
There will in the future also be some discussion about the Bishops statements
which are very strong, particularly those of the European conferences of
bishopsFrance, Germany, and others, not to mention the American bishops
statements as well. But the European bishops reflect a much stronger and more powerful
recognition of the problems and the reality of the Churchs role in the Shoah.
However, the Vatican document itself is written in a lawyer-like way, apparently to
protect the Church from indictments. Thats a harsh thing to say, but I found the
introductory letter from the Pope much stronger, albeit much briefer, than the labored
document itself. We must be involved in the key question about the relationship between
this document and the European bishops statements.
I am well aware of the argument that I heard in Rome last March that this document is
addressed to the global Church, for the one billion Catholics, many of whom live in areas
without a Jewish community or without any involvement in the European massacre of the
Jews. But it seems to me that its precisely because the document was written
for a global Church, it should have been stronger. To make the case once and for all,
eternally and universally, at all times and all places, whether its in Kenya or
Papua New Guinea, Amsterdam or Berlin, Rome or Hartford or anywhere else that because
its the global Church, therefore it should say it as clearly and as sharply as
possible, with all the strength that comes from speaking to one billion members of the
Roman Catholic family.
Another area of concern is quite obvious. I regret that the document mentions Pope Pius
XII in such a defensive way. A defense of Pius XII, which is appropriate for the Vatican
to make, should not have been in this document. There are arenas and other places to make
that case, but not here. Unfortunately, the document prominently mentions Pius XII and
then uses congratulatory statements from four Jews. It is a peculiar way to defend the
Because this document is so rooted to history and depends so much on history and
historical analysis and historical documents, because it is so rooted to history, it begs
for other historians who have other documents, other views and other footnotes to enter
into the Catholic-Jewish encounter. Once history is employed, everybody can use history
and everybody does. I am certain that in future Catholic-Jewish dialogue, the question of
Pius XII will now be a major topic simply because the question is so prominent in this
document. Had the authors of this document not talked about the defense of Pius XII in
such explicit terms, I think it could have been handled in a different way.
Finally, because it depends so much on history and on readings of documents, this
document opens the door for a full review of all the records of the period, from 1933,
which is from Pius XI, through 1949-1950, after World War II. While 11 volumes have
already been issued by the Vatican numbering about 5,100 pagesnot all the
documents of this period have been made publicI have urged and what others
have been urging, both from the Catholic and Jewish side, is for teams of competent
scholars to have full access to the relevant documents of that critical period. Until and
unless that happens, because the Vatican document uses and makes references to certain
things that happened at certain times, there will always be an enormous question in the
Catholic-Jewish dialogue vis-a-vis what really happened. A partial release of documents,
even when it was done in good faith, is simply not going to suffice.
Now these are perhaps some harsh realities but the Catholic-Jewish dialogue can
certainly "take it." It is a mature relationship. Since 1965 when Nostra
Aetate was promulgated, we have had 33 years of extraordinary advances in
Catholic-Jewish relations. Precisely because those relations are so strong, precisely
because we are now in a mature relationship, it is now possible to address difficult,
painful, and often haunting issues. I am hopeful that this Vatican document will have, as
I have said in another context, a shelf life. I hope it will not be put on the shelf,
never to be used very much. Rather I hope it will be take on a life of its own and be the
impetus for further conversation, further dialogue, and further study.
Let me conclude by reciting the documents four "Rs." The document has
positive material about historical remembrance. It has very positive statements
about repentanceteshuva. It has a good statement about resolve,
about the need to move forward, to never forget. In fact the phrase, "never
again," is in this document as well. The fourth "R," responsibilitya
sense of responsibility, an appropriate responsibility of the Roman Catholic Church is
what is problematic in the entire reflection statement. It is precisely in the area of
responsibility that work must continue among those who are engaged in Catholic-Jewish
relations. I close with a quote from a poet who was neither Catholic nor Jewish, Robert
Browning. He wrote "Rabbi Ben Ezra." I need to amend his first line because this
is the future of Catholic-Jewish relations. Browning wrote: "Grow old along with me,
the best is yet to be." Ill change just one letter and say with regrets to
Browning, "Grow old along with me, the rest is yet to be." Thank you very much.
Rev. Bryan Hehir: Thank you very much. Im appreciative to come to Trinity.
Mark Silk was kind enough to indicate that Trinity invited me back some years ago for an
honorary degree. What I told them at that time was that was not my first visit to Trinity.
My highest ambition was to be the quarterback on the Trinity football team when I
graduated from high school. But when my athletic director brought me down and the coach
got a look at me, I was about the same size as I am now, he thought it was a bad
investment. So I didnt get into Trinity my first time around. So Im glad to
come back in this context.
However coming back in this context, I was conscious of the fact that I was invited to
give two different talks this week and both of them gave me pause. A week ago at Harvard,
we had a major event at the Kennedy School of Government in which they put on a panel and
there were four of us on the panel and the topic was the state of the world and they gave
each of us six minutes. Now that gave me some pause because I have a number of things
Id like to say about the state of the world but I wasnt quite sure that six
minutes was going to do it. So that was the first invitation. The second one was from Mark
Silk to come to this event. When Mark called me and said that were doing an event on
the Vatican document, We Remember, and Christian-Jewish relations and we want you
to come, it was the exact opposite of having too much to say about the state of the world.
I said, "Mark, I am no expert in this area. I know everyone else on this panel and
Im just not in their league." He assured me they invited me because I
didnt know anything about the topicthat I was perfect for the panel. So I
began to get a sense of what the expectation was of me in this panel. But what he did ask
me to do was precisely not to speak from long and deep experience in Jewish-Catholic
dialogue or in the involvement of this text, but about the life of the Catholic Church
more broadly as a public agency and that I have had a fair amount of contact with. So I
will now, having exhausted my first minute, spend five minutes on this question.
Essentially what I want to do is say something about the context from which a document
like this appears and not at all to deal with the content, which my colleagues can do from
both the Catholic and Jewish side with much more competency that I.
Therefore, I will say four things. First a word about interpreting Catholicism.
Secondly, locating the document in the context of my remarks about interpreting
Catholicism. Thirdly, a word about John Paul II. Fourthly, the future. And I promise you,
Interpreting Catholicism. In my view, if you try to understand the Catholic Church the
most important thing to do is to do a three-dimensional analysis no matter what you are
trying to understand. Think about Catholicism as ideas, institutions, and a community. And
it is in the interaction of those three things. If you take the teaching out of context
and dont look at the institutional engagement of the Church as an actor in events,
you miss something. If you look at the institution and dont compare with the ideas,
you miss something. And thirdly, the life of the community is the third point of
Now I think that works for any number of issues, at least I would propose that I could
demonstrate that on any number of issues. But this document fits at the intersection of
ideas and institutions. That is to say, it is about Catholic teaching on the question of
Catholic-Jewish relations and it is about the Church as an historical agent and what its
record has been or has not been. So it is right at the intersection of two different
[I suspect that explains] some of the reasons why there were things in this document
that appear like they just shouldnt fit. It is not necessarily the case that they
should be in there, but you dont grasp them if you deal with them at the level of
ideas. For example the reference to Pius XII and the reference to the Middle East. That
arises out of the institutional character of Catholicism more than the teaching. So, for
example, I dont think you can account for it in terms of whether they logically
should fit. I can understand the argument that neither of them should be there, though
Ill come back to that point.
So ideas, institution, and a community. Locate the document at the intersection of
ideas and institution.
Secondly, what do you say about the document. It is both a teaching document, if you
will, and it is an examination of a very sensitive and complicated historical question. On
the teaching nature of the document, it is the journey, as my colleagues have indicated,
from Vatican II to now, that is the relevant way of understanding the teaching. I would
highlight that when you look at this document through the lens of Vatican II, at the time
of the Second Vatican Council, two issues that were of the highest concern of the Church
in the United States and both of which had a similar character, were the question of
religious liberty and Catholic-Jewish relations. They grew out of our experience here.
Both of them were very difficult issues at Vatican II and they were difficult precisely
because of what the American Jesuit, John Courtney Murray, who wrote the document of
religious liberty, called the "development of doctrine" questionhow the
Church gets from A to B. How it gets from what it has said on A to saying something
different on B, whether it was on religious liberty and liberalism, or whether it was on
the question of Catholic-Jewish relations. Murray made the point that often times the
Church knows what it ought to say and cant generate the ideas to say it, because it
doesnt know how to close the gap with the past. I think there is something that
works on both of these questions here. That is to say, that things never get said as
clearly as you want in any one document, because they are trying to solve the problem of
how do we get from A to B. Gregory XVI, when asked what he thought of religious liberty in
the 1830s, said it was "deliramenta," that is to say, "utter madness."
How was the Vatican Council going to say it was the right of every human being?
Thats a long journey in a century. So I think it is that both of these questions are
development of doctrine questions and often times you know what you want to say and still
dont say it clearly enough because of the question of the journey of how we maintain
some kind of logical connection.
Now, in the question of Catholic-Jewish relations, it wasnt a matter of logical
connection, it was the need to go in a very different direction. That was much stronger
than the religious liberty question. I think while there was a different direction
at Vatican II, every document is tortuous and this document is one of them. Its part
of this journey.
Thirdly, this document is not simply about theology. It is about history. I was
reminded of what Einstein said once. They asked Einstein during the nuclear age, "Why
can we build bombs, but we cant disarm?" Einstein said, "Its simple.
Politics are more difficult than physics." Well for the Church, very often history is
more difficult than theology. Even when you get it said, reading the historical record
often involves a fair amount of hesitation. In fact, on religious liberty, the Council
said something new and never went back to review the history. John Courtney Murray who
wrote the document, said there were phrases in the document that made it sound like we
were in favor of this for a long time. Murray said essentially, "Dont believe
it." So there is a way in which straightening out the historical record is harder
than getting the theology straight.
Thirdly, John Paul II. My view is that this document clearly ought to be seen as a step
in a process, and a step that my guess isbecause I dont know things as
well as my colleagues, I can be simplermy guess is this document will in fact
be surpassed and will not be a major, major text in the long run. That there will be other
things said. My guess is that there will be other things said by the pope. Now here I am
into pure prediction and as Dan Quayle said, "Prediction is always risky, especially
when it is about the future." There is a question here, but my guess is that as you
come to the year 2000, there will be a statement from the pope. I have no empirical
evidence to assess that, but my argument rests on the following: That the critique of the
document is both from the outside and from the inside in the Church. There are already
voices saying this is not enough inside the Church. Appropriately, the inside voices
include episcopal conferencesthats always a generating force. Thirdly, I
think it is important to look at the history of this pope. I think his personal history
stamps a lot of what he does. I think within an organization like the Catholic Church, no
committee can say what he can say. Every committee has to fight its way through. He
doesnt have to fight his through anything if he wants to say something. My sense is
that he reads the history of Poland and the history of Europe in this time and he has set
the Church on this process of the millenium as the time to sort of clear the record. My
own guess is that he will address this question. If he does, the statement will be clearer
than it is by a statement from a committee.
That brings me to the final point, about the future of the discussion. I think the text
will be surpassed but I dont think the text is negligible and thats why my
friends have commented on how we must grapple with it. My sense is that the grappling will
take place at three levels: theology, history, and public policy. The theological question
that comes out of this document is this question about the Church as people and the Church
as somehow transcendent of people. This distinction about the Church is not something that
simply arises on this issue. It runs through lots of issues. Its a hard nut to crack
in Catholicism. It therefore should be seen again within a larger context than just this
document. They didnt invent that distinction in order to deal with that question.
Getting at that question is a larger theological issue.
Secondly, the history. As Jim Rudin said, there will be a fulsome historical debate.
The question of Pius XII. I think it will be easier to change the theology than to change
commentary on the life of a pope. Quite frankly, while I expect much stronger statements
and statements that go beyond this document, I think it will be a long road before
youll get an official statement in the Catholic Church that would be critical of the
pope. Thats my judgment on it.
Thirdly, I think the discussion of these issues will not simply be about theology or
history but will open out into a whole range of discussions that cut across
Catholic-Jewish relations. Thats why I talk about public policythe
Church as a public actor. The question of the Middle East. I can understand why some
people ask why it should be here. It doesnt make sense. It only makes sense in this
larger sense of this institution. The Jewish community is going to be involved in further
discussion of the Middle East. I think there was just an awareness that this is not a
unidimensional, one issue topic. Therefore I am not at all surprised that its there.
Silk: Thank you all. We now have an opportunity for the panelists to talk among
themselves. Let me exercise the chairs prerogative for one second and pose a quick
question. It is this. How will we know that this document is used for the instruction of
Catholics generally, as opposed to being a document which, as we were talking about prior
to the panel, was written in English and does not seem to have been translated yet into
many languages. That it was essentially the Vatican speaking to the Jewish community?
Cunningham: I think there are several ways of answering the
question. One way to gauge We Remembers influence that leaps to my mind
(because its one of my fields) is in terms of religious education. I might add
education as a fourth category to Bryan Hehirs list of history, theology, and public
policy, by the way. What is taught in Catholic religion textbooks about the Shoah
would be one way of gauging the influence and impact of this document. I am again thinking
of the earlier Vatican documents as I say this. Textbook studies demonstrate with absolute
clarity that Nostra Aetate, the Guidelines, and the Notes have had a
very significant impact on what is presented in Catholic religion textbooks, with a delay
of maybe five or six years before things filter through in new textbook editions and so
forth. So I would anticipate that what is taught about the Shoah will show the
importance of this document. Of course, this expectation would also be affected by any
additional statements that the pope might make, as was mentioned earlier.
Rudin: My own world, as you probably figured, is not just rabbinics but history,
and I am struck, and a little uneasy, when we make easy comparisons or analogies between Nostra
Aetate and this document. Nostra Aetate of course was many years in the making,
at least three years of intense debate, and was voted on finally by the worlds
bishops. This is a different kind of document on a different subject. One of the reasons
why we are looking at it to see how it will be used in Catholic education and Catholic
seminaries, colleges, universities, parochial schools, is precisely again the history of
it. It was 11 years in the making. Had this not been promised and announced in 1987 and
then released in 1998, had it not had the signature of the pope himself on it, had there
not been this letter to Cardinal Cassidy who has been a remarkably strong and vigorous
advocate of positive Catholic-Jewish relations, had these "great expectations"
not been built up, I think the document would have been received in a very, very different
way. But after 11 years, with the popes signature there, all of us who work in
Catholic-Jewish relations, Catholics and Jews, will want to know how will it be used. I
come back to my phrase, that Mark is asking, "Whats the shelf life going to
be?" and shelf life is "Will it be used? I do want to say that this is not
the final word. Even since this document was released on March 16th of this
year, on Good Friday, on April 10th the pope at his service was very clear and
had a much stronger statement read at the Vatican on Good Friday which went far beyond
this in terms of culpability of the Jews, the passion of Jesus, the teaching of contempt,
and all the rest. So this is a work in progress and I would hope that my Jewish brothers
and sisters would see this as a step and although it is printed and signed and all of
that, it is a work in progress, this whole process.
Chanes: The question of course is a multi-leveled and multi-layered one, and in
just one area, the world of Catholic education, which itself is a very broad rubric, I
would be interested in seeing how this document is explored in Catholic seminaries. And
indeed we know that the world of education of the priesthood is different in many
different countries; Jim Rudin has worked productively in seminaries in Poland. It would
be important to see how the document is explored in Catholic seminaries.
Hehir: Again these folks know a good deal more about it than I do. As an
outsider to this deep discussion on these questions I have a sense that if you look at Nostra
Aetate and then the Guidelines and the Notes, there was more attention
to getting them translated into textbooks of Catholic thought than several other documents
of the Council. I work on the Churchs social policy and there was no such systematic
review of textbooks as there were on Nostra Aetate and the Guidelines. So
there is a lobby, if you will, both within the Church and the Catholic-Jewish discussion
that will press this question. On a comparative basis there is no question that there has
been more attention to these issues in the translation into textbooks than there was on a
variety of other things out of Vatican II.
Rudin: Mark, if I might. I want to slightly disagree with Jerome. I dont
do this very often. I think we should be grateful that this document was, in fact, issued
when Karol Wojtyla was and is the pope. His record of achievement since 1978 is
extraordinary. Im saying this to my Jewish sisters and brothers who may not know it.
You remember when he was elected pope in October, 1978, there was a great deal, as there
always is, "Gee, hes coming from Poland. Hes not an Italian. He must
be an anti-Semite." Just the opposite. Exactly the opposite. I would submit to you,
its because he was born in Poland in 1920. Precisely because he was 19 years old
when the Germans came to his little village. Precisely because he saw the Shoah, on
the ground. Not as a diplomat, not even as a priest. And certainly not as an academic of
any kind. He saw it with his own eyes. Read his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
Read the chapter on Judaism. He says about 25 percent of his classmates, he went to a
state school, were Jews. So he saw it on the ground, he experienced it. And his record,
whether starting in 1979 when he knelt at the memorial to the Jews killed at Auschwitz, on
his first trip to Poland as pope, all the way through the things that Jerome Chanes has
talked aboutthe synagogue visit, relations with the state of Israelthis is
part of this long pattern of his achievements, with some great opposition I would think.
Therefore I think its fully upon him, it was incumbent on him, and I think it
happened during his papacy, his pontificate, that this document come out. To use a
cliché, we will not see his like again. Not because the next pope wont be a
magnificent, spiritual leader and a moral compass. Its just chronology. The next
pope will not have been born in Poland in 1920. Thats for sure. And that means a
whole different approach and again, the younger generation that Jerome was talking about
will in fact move into those leadership positions and it will just be a different
situation. So Im grateful that this pope from Poland was and has been pope since
1978 in the area of Catholic-Jewish relations.
Chanes: It is not entirely clear to me that Jim and I disagree on this. I would
prefer, however, not to go into the polarized questionsis he an anti-Semite, or is
he not? Clearly he is not. Theres no question about that. My analysis of
Vatican-Jewish relations is based on the record, and I would therefore suggest a more
nuanced approach than Karol Wojtylas relationship to Jews. Hence, the words I
used"ambiguous" and "ambivalent." I would suggest that the
record, whatever positive things there are to say about Pope John Paul IIand
there are many wonderful things, theres no question about itis both
ambiguous and ambivalent.
Cunningham: I just might follow up on that by making a
theological comment. Part of the issue thats involved here, which perhaps everybody
in the audience may not be familiar with, is that Nostra Aetate really altered, in
a 180-degree way, anything that had ever been taught before by Christian leaders and
officials about Jews, specifically in two areas. One is the alleged Jewish responsibility
for the death of Jesus that Nostra Aetate rejected. Secondly, it acknowledged at
least implicitly, and Pope John Paul II has subsequently made this quite explicit on
numerous occasions, that Jews remain in a covenantal relationship with God. That had been
denied throughout Christian history.
I cannot overemphasize to you the huge theological repercussions that
these changes have for every area of Catholic life; for instance, in terms of
Christologyhow one understands Christ; ecclesiologyhow one
understands the Church; and soteriologyhow one understands salvation. These
are all things that are still being worked out. You dont alter something that
fundamental, that has been enduring for over 1800 years, and see its transformation all
the way through very rapidly.
So with this background, I would suggest that some of the Popes
speeches directed inside the Church to the Catholic faithful, rather than to Jews or
interfaith groups, sometimes use the Bible in a way that smacks of older supersessionist
ideas. For example, in a general audience during last Advent, he spoke about the Hebrew
prophets gradually revealing the Messiah as the suffering servantan
exegetically shaky conclusion that encourages people to restrict the richness of
Israels scriptures to their potential Christological uses. I would perhaps
presumptuously suggest that one of the reasons for this is that, in his own mind and in
the minds of all Catholics, it takes time to work through all of the implications of the
radical changes in Catholic attitudes toward Judaism that Nostra Aetate and its
successor documents represent. So what is perceived as ambivalence might simply be
insufficient time for all these ramifications to penetrate through all aspects of Catholic
theology and practice.
Chanes: If I can comment specifically on that point. My sense is that that is
entirely right. None of us sits in the Vatican. Phil is pointing us in the right
direction. The issue is not the pope. It is not Karol Wojtyla. It is what has been going
on in the Vatican since Nostra Aetate. Clearly there are forces of reaction
whispering in the popes ear and forces of change and of progress, whispering in his
ear. The results are issues and responses that might appear to the outside world,
including the Jewish community, as a pattern of ambivalence.
Question: What is the difference between a national conference of
bishops, as the French and the Polish bishops have done, addressing this question and the
Vatican addressing this question.
Hehir: I think there are several different characteristics. The obvious one, is
that there is a different level of authority in the life of Catholic Church so the voice
means something different. Conferences of bishops speak for the Catholics in a nation,
whereas the Vatican obviously speaks for the life of the whole Church. Although, here
again, my own sense is, and I would really invite criticism from my colleagues on this if
I am just wrong, this is a commissioned document, if I understand it correctly. The pope
wrote a letter covering it. Thats why my bet is you will have a papal statement on
this. Secondly, when you get a papal statement there will be much less restraint on what
the pope says than what a commission says. When you are a commission in the oldest
bureaucracy in the world, you are aware of your limits. And this commission would have
been aware of its limits. So my sense is that I cant imagine that hes going to
let the year 2000 come and not address the question. And if he addresses it, I think it
will be more fulsome. Thirdly, when the Vatican addresses an issue, I guess this is my
point, you will find a lot of things in the document where you would say, "If I wrote
this with a straight line on the one question it was supposed to address, this
and this and this wouldnt be in it." In an institution
like the Vatican, as part of the institution of the Catholic Church, I dont know any
document that gets written that waya straight line without any intervening
factors that they are always thinking about. So once again, its much different from
a national conference of bishops addressing it. It takes into consideration a whole set of
other factors. Whether one agrees with the text or not, one cant interpret it if you
take too linear view of what its task is.
Rudin: I would agree with Fr. Hehir. First, Phil and I already heard in Rome
that although this text is not going to be revised, there is going to be more.
Already, as I pointed out, even on Good Friday there has been more. There will be some
more coming. The other point is when you go home, if you have the document in front of
you, read the popes letter, which I think is a single-author piece of work. That one
person wrote that and we know who the person is, he signed his name to it. Its very
powerful, very clear, and the word "responsibility" appears in the popes
letter. As I indicated, I think the statement itself, which went through all the
commissions and different people, has a good beginning, a very problematic middlethe
World War II periodand a very good ending. So youll see the difference.
I think it is a clear difference in authorship and although it is printed in all the same
typeface, the letter is much stronger than the document.
Question: The authority of the magisterium seems to be falling on deafer and
deafer ears. Many of the statements the Church makes are either ignored or bypassed. Why
do you think, if you do, that this document will have any more effect on, for example,
American Catholics than the Churchs teaching on contraception or the Catholic
Bishops statement on peace or the Bishops statement on economic justice?
Hehir: The first part of your question is much easier than your second part. The
magisterium speaks on many issues. One of the things that theologians and others talk
about today is what is called the doctrine of receptivity; that is, not only what is said
but how it is received. The contraception question was received in a Church that was
already deeply divided at the level of practice and had become divided at the level of
theory. So a statement was issued within the context in which it would have to have been
an extraordinary feat to close the ranks at the level of practice and theory. I personally
dont think there is any kind of disagreement of that nature at all around this
question in the Catholic Church. Im not saying every Catholic would read this
document and agree with it but there is no comparison to what the state of the internal
life was when that document was issued.
Now when you turn to the other two documents, the documents on peace and on the
economy, their impact again is clearly not all that I had hoped for, thats for sure.
But to be very honest Im not terribly surprised. I think these documents work at
different levels. I think that at the time the peace document was issued, it served as a
catalyst for a wider debate in the United States about an issue that needed to be debated.
So I never judge the document by whether everybody lined up with everything that was said
in 183 paragraphs. I really look at how the Church fits into a wider policy of public
discourse. And that was useful I think.
I think it is useful in this sense to talk about this document in that way. I
frankly see this as much less as a doctrinal teaching document. Those things have been
said at Vatican II. Where this fits into play, what this is about is about questions of
not only specific Jewish-Catholic relationship where it repeated things that had been said
doctrinally before. The historical discussion is part of the history of the 20th
century. So thats where this fits in, as part of this. I work in international
politics all the time and one of the things that strikes me isI think Jim
Rudins point is well takenthat to use the term, "Shoah"
highlights the uniqueness of the question of the Holocaust and the Jewish history in World
War II. Thats important.
There is another way to read this, in this sense, that this was also a genocide, that
it wasnt simply the Shoah but a genocide. The sobering fact when you think
about genocide and keeping the memory of things alive is that in the 10 years since the
end of World War II, there have been two genocides in world politics. Two genocides. I
think it is important to keep this unique and therefore the language of the Shoah,
but what is also striking is that all of us in this room are old enough to have grown up
on, "Never again." It seems to me that statement took on a larger significance.
It was rooted in the experience of the Shoah, but it was also an affirmation that
the world would never again let genocide happen. The fact of the matter is that weve
had two genocides in 10 years. So keeping alive the memory of what this is about in its
specifically religious terms is obviously uniquely important. It is also important in the
wider history of the 20th century, and the fact of what we faced in the last
decade of this century and that contribution of where this document fits in that wider
discussion I think also needs to be kept in mind.
Question: Can there be feedback from the community?
Hehir: My sense is that there has already been feedback and therefore its
an indication that there will continue to be feedback. I found a number of statements
interesting. Once again, the comparison with the national bishops statements. When
you introduce that kind of comparison inside the life of the Church, that opens the way
for the next step. Somebody says, "This could have been better. This could have been
sharper. We know it could have been because it was stated better somewhere else."
That opens the way.
I found Cardinal OConnors statement interesting. He said, "We
proceeded by inches." This is a kind of commentary that inches are not enough to get
us to the end of the century. Feedback. A resident of West Hartford, Richard McBrien, one
of the most widely read theologians in the Catholic Church, came out immediately with a
document highlighting what he felt were the limitations of the document. Thats how
the feedback happens. It also happens more generally, in a variety of circles in the life
of the Church. My sense is, taking the temperature of the reaction already, the general
reaction, both from the inside and the outside was: Better that this exists than it
didnt exist. Is it enough? No. You put those two things together. There will be more
Question: Are there promising signs on the ecumenical horizon among Orthodox,
Protestant, or evangelical denominations, regarding this issue and this document?
Rudin: Its a good question. I just want to say one word about Fr. McBrien.
I didnt know he was from Hartford. I was on the Jim Lehrer show with him. He used an
image Ill throw out since were in Hartford. Its his image remember, not
mine. He said precisely because the bar has been placed higher by the episcopal
conferences, by the bishops conferences, particularly in Europe, he felt that this
statement didnt get up "above the bar." Some of you may have seen that
program. It was a very striking image to me. He said that if it had come out 10 years ago,
and I think some others have said, it would have been received with much more applause
because the bar was much lower. But, Fr. McBrien said, its much higher.
Now, on the Council of Churches and ecumenism. Im sure that in Connecticut you
move with great speed and all deliberate speed on these things, but my own sense is that
it is only about six weeks since its come out. It has to be printed and published.
This is not begging the question. Its a little premature to see how it is going to
be reacting. I know that at the American Jewish Committee we will be using this document,
with other documents, as a basis to begin that process that I spoke about during my formal
remarks. So I think its going to happen. I also think it obviously will have some
influence on the Protestant community. Given ecumenical relations, what the Vatican says,
is heard by everybody.
Some other Protestant churches have alluded to, written about, discussed the Shoah
in different ways. Billy Graham has talked about it. Those collections are there. The
importance of this document is clearly where it came from, who signed it, who issued it
and who it is directed tothe one billion Roman Catholics in the world,
particularly when it was made clear that this is to the global Church. There are other
Protestant documents, but Protestants speak in different ways.
If I could put a parenthesis in and Protestants and Catholics will correct me. It seems
to me that often Protestant churches will say "The Church has sinned, on say,
black-white relations, on racism. The Church has sinned." I have often found that
Catholic documents will say, "Catholics have sinned. Catholics have committed acts of
racism." But not the Church. I think the reason, if I am right, and Phil Cunningham
expressed it very well, there is a mystical body of Christ. But when I read Protestant
documents its always, "The Church has
on black-white relations, on
slavery, on a host of other issues." Maybe Im wrong, but thats been my
reading of the two branches of Christianity, Protestantism and Catholicism.
COMMISSION FOR RELIGIOUS RELATIONS WITH THE JEWS
A REFLECTION ON THE SHOAH
LIBRERIA EDITRICE VATICANA
To my Venerable Brother
CARDINAL EDWARD IDRIS CASSIDY
On numerous occasions during my Pontificate I have recalled with a sense of deep sorrow
the sufferings of the Jewish people during the Second World War. The crime which has
become known as the Shoah remains an indelible stain on the history of the century
that is coming to a close.
As we prepare for the beginning of the Third Millennium of Christianity, the Church is
aware that the joy of a Jubilee is above all the joy that is based on the forgiveness of
sins and reconciliation with God and neighbour. Therefore she encourages her sons and
daughters to purify their hearts, through repentance of past errors and infidelities. She
calls them to place themselves humbly before the Lord and examine themselves on the
responsibility which they too have for the evils of our time.
It is my fervent hope that the document: We Remember: A Reflection on the
Shoah, which the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews has prepared under
your direction, will indeed help to heal the wounds of past misunderstandings and
injustices. May it enable memory to play its necessary part in the process of shaping a
future in which the unspeakable iniquity of the Shoah will never again be possible.
May the Lord of history guide the efforts of Catholics and Jews and all men and women of
good will as they work together for a world of true respect for the life and dignity of
every human being, for all have been created in the image and likeness of God.
From the Vatican, 12 March 1998.
COMMISSION FOR RELIGIOUS RELATIONS WITH THE JEWS
WE REMEMBER: A REFLECTION ON THE SHOAH
- The tragedy of the Shoah and the duty of remembrance
The twentieth century is fast coming to a close and a new Millennium of the
Christian era is about to dawn. The 2000th anniversary of the Birth of Jesus Christ calls
all Christians, and indeed invites all men and women, to seek to discern in the passage of
history the signs of divine Providence at work, as well as the ways in which the image of
the Creator in man has been offended and disfigured.
This reflection concerns one of the main areas in which Catholics can seriously take to
heart the summons which Pope John Paul II has addressed to them in his Apostolic Letter Tertio
Millennio Adveniente: "It is appropriate that, as the Second Millennium of
Christianity draws to a close, the Church should become more fully conscious of the
sinfulness of her children, recalling all those times in history when they departed from
the spirit of Christ and his Gospel and, instead of offering to the world the witness of a
life inspired by the values of faith, indulged in ways of thinking and acting which were
truly forms of counter-witness and scandal".(1)
This century has witnessed an unspeakable tragedy, which can never be forgotten: the
attempt by the Nazi regime to exterminate the Jewish people, with the consequent killing
of millions of Jews. Women and men, old and young, children and infants, for the sole
reason of their Jewish origin, were persecuted and deported. Some were killed immediately,
while others were degraded, illtreated, tortured and utterly robbed of their human
dignity, and then murdered. Very few of those who entered the Camps survived, and those
who did remained scarred for life. This was the Shoah. It is a major fact of the
history of this century, a fact which still concerns us today.
Before this horrible genocide, which the leaders of nations and Jewish communities
themselves found hard to believe at the very moment when it was being mercilessly put into
effect, no one can remain indifferent, least of all the Church, by reason of her very
close bonds of spiritual kinship with the Jewish people and her remembrance of the
injustices of the past. The Church's relationship to the Jewish people is unlike the one
she shares with any other religion.(2) However, it is not only a question of recalling the
past. The common future of Jews and Christians demands that we remember, for "there
is no future without memory".(3) History itself is memoria futuri.
In addressing this reflection to our brothers and sisters of the Catholic Church
throughout the world, we ask all Christians to join us in meditating on the catastrophe
which befell the Jewish people, and on the moral imperative to ensure that never again
will selfishness and hatred grow to the point of sowing such suffering and death.(4) Most
especially, we ask our Jewish friends, "whose terrible fate has become a symbol of
the aberrations of which man is capable when he turns against God",(5) to hear us
with open hearts.
- What we must remember
While bearing their unique witness to the Holy One of Israel and to the Torah,
the Jewish people have suffered much at different times and in many places. But the Shoah
was certainly the worst suffering of all. The inhumanity with which the Jews were
persecuted and massacred during this century is beyond the capacity of words to convey.
All this was done to them for the sole reason that they were Jews.
The very magnitude of the crime raises many questions. Historians, sociologists,
political philosophers, psychologists and theologians are all trying to learn more about
the reality of the Shoah and its causes. Much scholarly study still remains to be
done. But such an event cannot be fully measured by the ordinary criteria of historical
research alone. It calls for a "moral and religious memory" and, particularly
among Christians, a very serious reflection on what gave rise to it.
The fact that the Shoah took place in Europe, that is, in countries of
long-standing Christian civilization, raises the question of the relation between the Nazi
persecution and the attitudes down the centuries of Christians towards the Jews.
- Relations between Jews and Christians
The history of relations between Jews and Christians is a tormented one. His
Holiness Pope John Paul II has recognized this fact in his repeated appeals to Catholics
to see where we stand with regard to our relations with the Jewish people.(6) In effect,
the balance of these relations over two thousand years has been quite negative.(7)
At the dawn of Christianity, after the crucifixion of Jesus, there arose disputes
between the early Church and the Jewish leaders and people who, in their devotion to the
Law, on occasion violently opposed the preachers of the Gospel and the first Christians.
In the pagan Roman Empire, Jews were legally protected by the privileges granted by the
Emperor and the authorities at first made no distinction between Jewish and Christian
communities. Soon however, Christians incurred the persecution of the State. Later, when
the Emperors themselves converted to Christianity, they at first continued to guarantee
Jewish privileges. But Christian mobs who attacked pagan temples sometimes did the same to
synagogues, not without being influenced by certain interpretations of the New Testament
regarding the Jewish people as a whole. "In the Christian worldI do not say on
the part of the Church as sucherroneous and unjust interpretations of the New
Testament regarding the Jewish people and their alleged culpability have circulated for
too long, engendering feelings of hostility towards this people".(8) Such
interpretations of the New Testament have been totally and definitively rejected by the
Second Vatican Council.(9)
Despite the Christian preaching of love for all, even for one's enemies, the prevailing
mentality down the centuries penalized minorities and those who were in any way
"different". Sentiments of anti-Judaism in some Christian quarters, and the gap
which existed between the Church and the Jewish people, led to a generalized
discrimination, which ended at times in expulsions or attempts at forced conversions. In a
large part of the "Christian" world, until the end of the 18th century, those
who were not Christian did not always enjoy a fully guaranteed juridical status. Despite
that fact, Jews throughout Christendom held on to their religious traditions and communal
customs. They were therefore looked upon with a certain suspicion and mistrust. In times
of crisis such as famine, war, pestilence or social tensions, the Jewish minority was
sometimes taken as a scapegoat and became the victim of violence, looting, even massacres.
By the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, Jews generally
had achieved an equal standing with other citizens in most States and a certain number of
them held influential positions in society. But in that same historical context, notably
in the 19th century, a false and exacerbated nationalism took hold. In a climate of
eventful social change, Jews were often accused of exercising an influence
disproportionate to their numbers. Thus there began to spread in varying degrees
throughout most of Europe an anti-Judaism that was essentially more sociological and
political than religious.
At the same time, theories began to appear which denied the unity of the human race,
affirming an original diversity of races. In the 20th century, National Socialism in
Germany used these ideas as a pseudo-scientific basis for a distinction between so called
Nordic-Aryan races and supposedly inferior races. Furthermore, an extremist form of
nationalism was heightened in Germany by the defeat of 1918 and the demanding conditions
imposed by the victors, with the consequence that many saw in National Socialism a
solution to their country's problems and cooperated politically with this movement.
The Church in Germany replied by condemning racism. The condemnation first appeared in
the preaching of some of the clergy, in the public teaching of the Catholic Bishops, and
in the writings of lay Catholic journalists. Already in February and March 1931, Cardinal
Bertram of Breslau, Cardinal Faulhaber and the Bishops of Bavaria, the Bishops of the
Province of Cologne and those of the Province of Freiburg published pastoral letters
condemning National Socialism, with its idolatry of race and of the State.(10) The
well-known Advent sermons of Cardinal Faulhaber in 1933, the very year in which National
Socialism came to power, at which not just Catholics but also Protestants and Jews were
present, clearly expressed rejection of the Nazi anti-semitic propaganda.(11) In the wake
of the Kristallnacht, Bernhard Lichtenberg, Provost of Berlin Cathedral, offered
public prayers for the Jews. He was later to die at Dachau and has been declared Blessed.
Pope Pius XI too condemned Nazi racism in a solemn way in his Encyclical Letter Mit
brennender Sorge,(12) which was read in German churches on Passion Sunday 1937, a step
which resulted in attacks and sanctions against members of the clergy. Addressing a group
of Belgian pilgrims on 6 September 1938, Pius XI asserted: "Anti-Semitism is
unacceptable. Spiritually, we are all Semites".(13) Pius XII, in his very first
Encyclical, Summi Pontificatus,(14) of 20 October 1939, warned against theories
which denied the unity of the human race and against the deification of the State, all of
which he saw as leading to a real "hour of darkness".(15)
- Nazi anti-Semitism and the Shoah
Thus we cannot ignore the difference which exists between anti-Semitism, based on
theories contrary to the constant teaching of the Church on the unity of the human race
and on the equal dignity of all races and peoples, and the long-standing sentiments of
mistrust and hostility that we call anti-Judaism, of which, unfortunately, Christians also
have been guilty.
The National Socialist ideology went even further, in the sense that it refused to
acknowledge any transcendent reality as the source of life and the criterion of moral
good. Consequently, a human group, and the State with which it was identified, arrogated
to itself an absolute status and determined to remove the very existence of the Jewish
people, a people called to witness to the one God and the Law of the Covenant. At the
level of theological reflection we cannot ignore the fact that not a few in the Nazi Party
not only showed aversion to the idea of divine Providence at work in human affairs, but
gave proof of a definite hatred directed at God himself. Logically, such an attitude also
led to a rejection of Christianity, and a desire to see the Church destroyed or at least
subjected to the interests of the Nazi State.
It was this extreme ideology which became the basis of the measures taken, first to
drive the Jews from their homes and then to exterminate them. The Shoah was the
work of a thoroughly modern neo-pagan regime. Its anti-Semitism had its roots outside of
Christianity and, in pursuing its aims, it did not hesitate to oppose the Church and
persecute her members also.
But it may be asked whether the Nazi persecution of the Jews was not made easier by the
anti-Jewish prejudices imbedded in some Christian minds and hearts. Did anti-Jewish
sentiment among Christians make them less sensitive, or even indifferent, to the
persecutions launched against the Jews by National Socialism when it reached power?
Any response to this question must take into account that we are dealing with the
history of people's attitudes and ways of thinking, subject to multiple influences.
Moreover, many people were altogether unaware of the "final solution" that was
being put into effect against a whole people; others were afraid for themselves and those
near to them; some took advantage of the situation; and still others were moved by envy. A
response would need to be given case by case. To do this, however, it is necessary to know
what precisely motivated people in a particular situation.
At first the leaders of the Third Reich sought to expel the Jews. Unfortunately, the
governments of some Western countries of Christian tradition, including some in North and
South America, were more than hesitant to open their borders to the persecuted Jews.
Although they could not foresee how far the Nazi hierarchs would go in their criminal
intentions, the leaders of those nations were aware of the hardships and dangers to which
Jews living in the territories of the Third Reich were exposed. The closing of borders to
Jewish emigration in those circumstances, whether due to anti-Jewish hostility or
suspicion, political cowardice or shortsightedness, or national selfishness, lays a heavy
burden of conscience on the authorities in question.
In the lands where the Nazis undertook mass deportations, the brutality which
surrounded these forced movements of helpless people should have led to suspect the worst.
Did Christians give every possible assistance to those being persecuted, and in particular
to the persecuted Jews?
Many did, but others did not. Those who did help to save Jewish lives as much as was in
their power, even to the point of placing their own lives in danger, must not be
forgotten. During and after the war, Jewish communities and Jewish leaders expressed their
thanks for all that had been done for them, including what Pope Pius XII did personally or
through his representatives to save hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives.(16) Many
Catholic bishops, priests, religious and laity have been honoured for this reason by the
State of Israel.
Nevertheless, as Pope John Paul II has recognized, alongside such courageous men and
women, the spiritual resistance and concrete action of other Christians was not that which
might have been expected from Christ's followers. We cannot know how many Christians in
countries occupied or ruled by the Nazi powers or their allies were horrified at the
disappearance of their Jewish neighbours and yet were not strong enough to raise their
voices in protest. For Christians, this heavy burden of conscience of their brothers and
sisters during the Second World War must be a call to penitence.(17)
We deeply regret the errors and failures of those sons and daughters of the Church. We
make our own what is said in the Second Vatican Council's Declaration Nostra Aetate,
which unequivocally affirms: "The Church ... mindful of her common patrimony with the
Jews, and motivated by the Gospel's spiritual love and by no political considerations,
deplores the hatred, persecutions and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews
at any time and from any source".(18)
We recall and abide by what Pope John Paul II, addressing the leaders of the Jewish
community in Strasbourg in 1988,stated: "I repeat again with you the strongest
condemnation of anti-Semitism and racism, which are opposed to the principles of
Christianity".(19) The Catholic Church therefore repudiates every persecution against
a people or human group anywhere, at any time. She absolutely condemns all forms of
genocide, as well as the racist ideologies which give rise to them. Looking back over this
century, we are deeply saddened by the violence that has enveloped whole groups of peoples
and nations. We recall in particular the massacre of the Armenians, the countless victims
in Ukraine in the 1930s, the genocide of the Gypsies, which was also the result of racist
ideas, and similar tragedies which have occurred in America, Africa and the Balkans. Nor
do we forget the millions of victims of totalitarian ideology in the Soviet Union, in
China, Cambodia and elsewhere. Nor can we forget the drama of the Middle East, the
elements of which are well known. Even as we make this reflection, "many human beings
are still their brothers' victims".(20)
- Looking together to a common future
Looking to the future of relations between Jews and Christians, in the first place we
appeal to our Catholic brothers and sisters to renew the awareness of the Hebrew roots of
their faith. We ask them to keep in mind that Jesus was a descendant of David; that the
Virgin Mary and the Apostles belonged to the Jewish people; that the Church draws
sustenance from the root of that good olive tree on to which have been grafted the wild
olive branches of the Gentiles (cf. Rom 11:17-24); that the Jews are our dearly
beloved brothers, indeed in a certain sense they are "our elder brothers".(21)
At the end of this Millennium the Catholic Church desires to express her deep sorrow
for the failures of her sons and daughters in every age. This is an act of repentance (teshuva),
since, as members of the Church, we are linked to the sins as well as the merits of all
her children. The Church approaches with deep respect and great compassion the experience
of extermination, the Shoah, suffered by the Jewish people during World War II. It
is not a matter of mere words, but indeed of binding commitment. "We would risk
causing the victims of the most atrocious deaths to die again if we do not have an ardent
desire for justice, if we do not commit ourselves to ensure that evil does not prevail
over good as it did for millions of the children of the Jewish people ... Humanity cannot
permit all that to happen again".(22)
We pray that our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people has suffered in our
century will lead to a new relationship with the Jewish people. We wish to turn awareness
of past sins into a firm resolve to build a new future in which there will be no more
anti-Judaism among Christians or anti-Christian sentiment among Jews, but rather a shared
mutual respect, as befits those who adore the one Creator and Lord and have a common
father in faith, Abraham.
Finally, we invite all men and women of good will to reflect deeply on the significance
of the Shoah. The victims from their graves, and the survivors through the vivid
testimony of what they have suffered, have become a loud voice calling the attention of
all of humanity. To remember this terrible experience is to become fully conscious of the
salutary warning it entails: the spoiled seeds of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism must
never again be allowed to take root in any human heart.
16 March 1998.
Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy
The Most Reverend Pierre Duprey
The Reverend Remi Hoeckman, O.P.
TYPIS VATICANIS MCMXCVIII
(1)Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 10 November
1994, 33: AAS 87 (1995), 25.
(2)Cf. Pope John Paul II, Speech at the Synagogue of Rome, 13 April 1986, 4: AAS
78 (1986), 1120.
(3)Pope John Paul II, Angelus Prayer, 11 June 1995: Insegnamenti 181,
(4)Cf. Pope John Paul II, Address to Jewish Leaders in Budapest, 18 August 1991,
4: Insegnamenti 142, 1991, 349.
(5)Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 1 May 1991, 17: AAS
83 (1991), 814-815.
(6)Cf. Pope John Paul II, Address to Delegates of Episcopal Conferences for
Catholic-Jewish relations, 6 March 1982: Insegnamenti, 51, 1982, 743-747.
(7)Cf. Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Notes on the
correct way to present the Jews and Judaism in preaching and catechesis in the Roman
Catholic Church, 24 June 1985, VI, 1: Ench. Vat. 9, 1656.
(8)Cf. Pope John Paul II, Speech to Symposium on the roots of anti-Judaism, 31
October 1997, 1: L'Osservatore Romano, 1 November 1997, p. 6.
(9)Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Nostra Aetate, 4.
(10)Cf. B. Statiewski (Ed.), Akten deutscher Bischöfe über die Lage der Kirche,
1933-1945, vol. I, 1933-1934 (Mainz 1968), Appendix.
(11)Cf. L. Volk, Der Bayerische Episkopat und der Nationalsozialismus 1930-1934
(Mainz 1966), pp. 170-174.
(12) The Encyclical is dated 14 March 1937: AAS 29 (1937), 145-167.
(13) La Documentation Catholique, 29 (1938), col. 1460.
(14) AAS 31 (1939), 413-453.
(15) Ibid., 449.
(16) The wisdom of Pope Pius XII's diplomacy was publicly acknowledged on a number of
occasions by representative Jewish Organizations and personalities. For example, on 7
September 1945, Dr. Joseph Nathan, who represented the Italian Hebrew Commission, stated:
"Above all, we acknowledge the Supreme Pontiff and the religious men and women who,
executing the directives of the Holy Father, recognized the persecuted as their brothers
and, with effort and abnegation, hastened to help us, disregarding the terrible dangers to
which they were exposed" (L'Osservatore Romano, 8 September 1945, p. 2). On 21
September of that same year, Pius XII received in audience Dr. A. Leo Kubowitzki,
Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress who came to present "to the Holy
Father, in the name of the Union of Israelitic Communities, warmest thanks for the efforts
of the Catholic Church on behalf of Jews throughout Europe during the War" (L'Osservatore
Romano, 23 September 1945, p. 1). On Thursday, 29 November 1945, the Pope met about 80
representatives of Jewish refugees from various concentration camps in Germany, who
expressed "their great honour at being able to thank the Holy Father personally for
his generosity towards those persecuted during the Nazi-Fascist period" (L'Osservatore
Romano, 30 November 1945, p. 1). In 1958, at the death of Pope Pius XII, Golda Meir
sent an eloquent message: "We share in the grief of humanity. When fearful martyrdom
came to our people, the voice of the Pope was raised for its victims. The life of our
times was enriched by a voice speaking out about great moral truths above the tumult of
daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace".
(17) Cf. Pope John Paul II, Address to the New Ambassador of the Federal Republic of
Germany to the Holy See, 8 November 1990, 2: AAS 83 (1991), 587-588.
(18) Loc. cit., no. 4.
(19) Address to Jewish Leaders, Strasbourg, 9 October 1988, no. 8: Insegnamenti
113, 1988, 1134.
(20) Pope John Paul II, Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 15 January 1994, 9: AAS
86 (1994), 816.
(21) Pope John Paul II, Speech at the Synagogue of Rome, 13 April 1986, 4: AAS
78 (1986), 1120.
(22) Pope John Paul II, Address on the occasion of a commemoration of the Shoah,
7 April 1994, 3: Insegnamenti 171, 1994, 897 and 893.