Fr Peter Hocken, a member of the new International Theological Commission for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, looks at how the Catholic Church has changed its teaching and understanding about the place of the Jewish people in Salvation history and the implications of this for us
One of the most remarkable changes in Catholic teaching and attitudes resulting from the Second Vatican Council concerns the Jewish people. For the first time the Catholic Church gave an authoritative teaching on this subject. The teaching corrects the exegesis and thinking that had shaped Catholic attitudes to the Jews throughout the ages. Since the Council, the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews has issued three further documents: Guidelines on Religious Relations with the Jews (1974); Notes on the Correct Way to present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church (1985) and We Remember (1998), a reflection on the Holocaust.In this first article, I will first summarise the teaching of the Council, noting how this has been developed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Pope John Paul II. Where the Catechism and the Pope add to the Council's teaching, these points are mentioned subsequently.
The Teaching of
The teaching of the Council on the Jewish people is found in para. 4 of the Decree on Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate (1965).
1. "The beginning of the Church's faith and election is to be found
in the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets." (NA, 4). The Pope developed
this thought when he made history by visiting the synagogue of
2. God has not rejected the Jewish people, and they remain God's chosen covenant people: "the Jews remain very dear to God, for the sake of the patriarchs, since God does not take back the gifts he bestowed or the choice he made.1" (NA, 4).
3. "Neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today,
can be charged with the crimes committed during [Jesus's]
passion" (NA, 4)2. "… the Jews should not
be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from Holy
Scripture." (NA, 4). The 1985
new Catechism of the Catholic Church, issued in 1994, reflects an exegesis of
Scripture that recognises in a new way the Jewishness of Jesus and the first generation in the
Church. Under "Jesus' temptations", we find: "Jesus fulfi ls Israel's vocation
perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years
in the desert, Christ reveals himself as God's Servant, totally obedient to
the divine will." (para. 539).An important
addition in the Catechism concerns the role of the Jews in the climax of
salvation history. Under the striking heading, "The glorious advent of
Christ, the hope of
John Paul II
John Paul II has given his full encouragement to this new openness towards
the Jewish people. But maybe the Pope's most distinctive contribution is his
call for Catholics to repent for the sins of the past. This appeal was fi rst made in the Apostolic Letter
Tertio Millennio Adveniente (1994), repeated in the encyclical on
ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint
(1995). While these documents did not specifically mention the Jewish issue,
it seems that this question has impelled the Holy Father towards the call for
repentance. Thus, as part of the Church's preparations for the Great Jubilee
of the Year 2000 the Pope set up two commissions to study the Catholic
treatment of the Jewish people through the ages and the Spanish Inquisition.
The liturgy of repentance in St Peter's Basilica on 12th March, 2000,
included this prayer: "God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his
descendants to bring your Name to the nations: we are deeply saddened by the
behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of
yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to
genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant." Two weeks later in
1 A footnote refers to Rom. 11: 28 - 29. The CCC, para. 839, exlplicitly cites Rom. 11: 29. "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable".
2 See CCC, para. 597. The Catechism teaches that all sinners carry responsibility for the sufferings of Jesus (para. 598)
This article was published in the magazine Good News, november/december 2003
Document 0104uk tells more about Peter Hocken.
Other articles of Peter Hocken on this web site StuCom: 0100uk, 0101uk, 0102uk, 0103uk, 0114uk, 0117uk, 0116uk, 0122uk, 0127