Israel’s top rabbis have expressed concern about comments made by Pope Francis regarding their books of sacred law and have demanded clarification reports Reuters.
According to the letter, Rabbi Rason Aroussi, head of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Commission for Dialogue with the Holy See, said that the comments seemed to imply that Jewish law was obsolete.
Vatican officials said they were reviewing the letter and are mulling a response.
Rabbi Aroussi wrote a day following the pope’s comments about the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, before a general audience on Aug. 11.
The pope, who was reflecting on what St. Paul claimed about the Torah in the New Testament, said: “The law (Torah) however does not give life.
“It does not offer the fulfilment of the promise because it is not capable of being able to fulfil it … Those who seek life need to look to the promise and to its fulfilment in Christ.”
Rabbi Aroussi penned the letter on behalf of the Chief Rabbinate – the top religious authority for Judaism in Israel – to Cardinal Kurt Koch, whose Vatican department includes a commission for religious relations with Jewish people.
“In his homily, the pope presents the Christian faith as not just superseding the Torah; but asserts that the latter no longer gives life, implying that Jewish religious practice in the present era is rendered obsolete,” Aroussi said in the letter.
“This is in effect part and parcel of the ‘teaching of contempt’ towards Jews and Judaism that we had thought had been fully repudiated by the Church,” he said.
Relations between Jews and Catholics were revolutionized in 1965, when the Vatican rejected the idea of collective Jewish guilt for the Jesus’ death and launched decades of inter-faith dialogue.
Two top Catholic academics of religious relations with Jewish people concurred that the pontiff’s sentiments could be viewed as a worrisome setback and required clarification.
“To say that this fundamental tenet of Judaism does not give life is to denigrate the basic religious outlook of Jews and Judaism. It could have been written before the Council,” said Father John Pawlikowski, former director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies Program at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
“I think it’s a problem for Jewish ears, especially because the pope’s remarks were addressed to a Catholic audience,” opined Professor Phil Cunningham, who heads the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
“It could be understood as devaluing Jewish observance of the Torah today,” Cunningham added.
Pawlikowski and Arousi considered the possibility that a least some of the pontiff’s teaching homily, known as a catechesis, was written by assistants and that the wording was not vetted properly.
In his letter to Cardinal Koch, Rabbi Aroussi requested that he “convey our distress to Pope Francis” and sought clarification from Pope Francis to “ensure that any derogatory conclusions drawn from this homily are clearly repudiated”
In February, Israel365 News reported that Pope Francis held an “interfaith” prayer ceremony in Iraq involving all Abrahamic religions despite the fact that there was no Jewish representation.