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June 07, 2003

Cardinal Keeler says church committed to its friendship with Jews

Jews and Catholics after John Paul II?

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (CNS) -- Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore told an interreligious group of seminarians that the commitment of the Catholic Church to friendship with Jews would continue regardless of who the next popes may be.
Pope John Paul II has taken notable steps to advance relations, but the new approach of the church is now firmly embedded in its teaching and does not depend on which individual may later be chosen for the papacy, the cardinal said.

The church's teaching on Catholic-Jewish relations is now set forth "at all levels," he said, and has the affirmation of the Second Vatican Council's 1965 declaration "Nostra Aetate," which repudiated all forms of anti-Semitism and called on Catholics to build mutual respect and understanding with Jews.[...]
.In the presentation, the seminarians got a view of important events in Catholic-Jewish relations, over the past two decades particularly, from someone who has played a key role at national and international levels.
Cardinal Keeler told how he as former chairman of the bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs had worked with top Jewish leaders and Catholics such as the late Cardinal John J. O'Connor of New York and the former president of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Cardinal Johannes Willebrands.
Their ability to work cooperatively with mutual respect, Cardinal Keeler said, enabled them to defuse controversies such as one in 1987 over the pope giving an audience to Kurt Waldheim, then the president of Austria, who was accused of participating in Nazi crimes.[...]

After Israel and the Palestinians entered into the Oslo peace process, the Vatican saw ways those concerns could be addressed, he said.
But, he said, he pointed out that Jewish organizations had been among the strongest opponents of the Vatican having diplomatic relations with the United States.

...Although not every individual Catholic expresses the church's outlook perfectly, the message of "Nostra Aetate" has set the church's official direction, and this is what is taught to future priests in Catholic seminaries, he said.
Cardinal Keeler said that during a recent appearance at a synagogue he talked about "Nostra Aetate," and found its message was "new to the rabbi." So there is still a need to tell people about it, he added.

The cardinal said in response to another question, however, that the theological implications of the "Nostra Aetate" statements about Jews have not been fully worked out.The relationship of the church to the Jews "transcends our understanding, but we're now trying to explicate it," he said.
But Catholics do not make Jews special targets for conversion in the way some other Christian groups do, he noted.
Cardinal Keeler also asked that Jewish congregations be told about the Catholic Church's commitment to religious freedom.