Rorate Caeli

For the record: New Vatican document on Jewish-Christian dialogue calls for "principled rejection" of "institutional" missionary work to Jews

So pre-Vatican II! 

The Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, headed by Cardinal Kurt Koch of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, issued today a new document on Christian-Jewish dialogue. (Full text on Vatican Radio: The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable.) To our knowledge, this document contains the most explicit rejection so far by the Vatican of any attempt to convert Jews to Catholicism, even as it affirms the "universal and therefore also exclusive mediation of salvation through Jesus Christ". It also contains an extended attack on supersessionism, which is explicitly named as a target of the document.

With the surprise revival in recent days of pressure from some hierarchies against the Good Friday Prayer inserted in the 1962 Missal by Benedict XVI, this issue is certainly of interest to Traditional Catholics, and bears watching. 

The document is described early on as "not a magisterial document or doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church", but we have little doubt that it will be treated in practice as having magisterial authority. Here we post its most relevant (for us) portions, with our emphases. 

On Supersessionism:

On the part of many of the Church Fathers the so-called replacement theory or supersessionism steadily gained favour until in the Middle Ages it represented the standard theological foundation of the relationship with Judaism: the promises and commitments of God would no longer apply to Israel because it had not recognised Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, but had been transferred to the Church of Jesus Christ which was now the true ‘new Israel’, the new chosen people of God. Arising from the same soil, Judaism and Christianity in the centuries after their separation became involved in a theological antagonism which was only to be defused at the Second Vatican Council. With its Declaration “Nostra aetate” (No.4) the Church unequivocally professes, within a new theological framework, the Jewish roots of Christianity. While affirming salvation through an explicit or even implicit faith in Christ, the Church does not question the continued love of God for the chosen people of Israel. A replacement or supersession theology which sets against one another two separate entities, a Church of the Gentiles and the rejected Synagogue whose place it takes, is deprived of its foundations. From an originally close relationship between Judaism and Christianity a long-term state of tension had developed, which has been gradually transformed after the Second Vatican Council into a constructive dialogue relationship.

On mission to the Jews:

It is easy to understand that the so-called ‘mission to the Jews’ is a very delicate and sensitive matter for Jews because, in their eyes, it involves the very existence of the Jewish people. This question also proves to be awkward for Christians, because for them the universal salvific significance of Jesus Christ and consequently the universal mission of the Church are of fundamental importance. The Church is therefore obliged to view evangelisation to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views. In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews. While there is a principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission, Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews, although they should do so in a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God’s Word, and particularly in view of the great tragedy of the Shoah.