In a landmark document, the Vatican announced on Thursday that Catholics should stop missionizing Jews and should work with Jews to combat anti-Semitism.
According to the document, which was released by the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, God never annulled his covenant with the Jewish people and “the Church is therefore obliged to view evangelization to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views.”
The document also called on Catholics to express particular sensitivity to the impact of the Holocaust on Jewish history, using the Hebrew term Shoah to refer to the Holocaust. The Vatican pledged “to do all that is possible with our Jewish friends to repel anti-Semitic tendencies.”
“A Christian can never be an anti-Semite, especially because of the Jewish roots of Christianity,” the document stated.
The release of the document comes on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the historic Nostra Aetate, in which the Vatican absolved the Jews collectively of guilt for the death of Jesus and began a theological shift inside the Church, calling for more open and friendly relations with other religions.
According to Rabbi Joshua Stanton, Member of the Board of Governors of The International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), the historical representative of the international Jewish community in Vatican relations, “the document is one of the more significant statements on Jewish-Catholic relations in the half-century since Nostra Aetate,” he told Breaking Israel News. “It reiterates the common roots of Christianity and Judaism and affirms the fraternal relationship that should be pursued between the traditions.“
With the new document, the Vatican recognized that there does exist elements among Catholics that act as a “Jewish mission” to covert Jews to Christianity and accept Jesus as the Messiah. However, the document states, “In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.”
The Vatican is now calling on Catholics to “bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews” but in a “humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God’s word.”
Since ascending to the Vatican’s top spot, Pope Francis has shook up the foundations of the Catholic Church with new policies, challenging years of theological history.
“The impact of this document is likely to be far-reaching, particularly insofar as the Catholic Church takes it upon itself to actively combat anti-Semitism,” Rabbi Stanton explained to Breaking Israel News. “As the largest religious institution in the world, its active protection of Jews could have major implications and would in some senses complete the transformation of Jewish-Catholic relations that began in the years leading up to the Second Vatican Council. The pronouncement amounts to an historically significant shift in Jewish-Catholic relations.”
“This is not a radical pronouncement, but one that represents a capstone to the efforts that have been under way for the better part of a century, as well as more recent efforts between Jewish and Catholic leaders,” he told Breaking Israel News. “The pronouncement was impressive in the extent to which it reiterated the commonalities between Jews and Catholics and rooted them in theological language and positive statements of belief.”