Rorate Caeli

The Epoch-making speech - The People of the Old Covenant

As mentioned before in the notes regarding the Pope's epoch-making speech of December 22 (see parts 1, 2, and 3; and also this), it was the intention of Benedict XVI to present a clearer portrayal of the Second Vatican Council to those Catholics who feel confused regarding many of the conciliar teachings (rightfully, it seems, since what Benedict calls the "hermeneutics of rupture" has been overwhelmingly predominant in the post-Conciliar years).

I am not the one who will present the Conciliar teaching on the adherents of other faiths, but at least literally no word of Vatican II says that the Mission of the Church includes all peoples, except one: the venerable people of the Old Covenant. The words of Nostra Aetate on the Jewish faith are a contemporary "re-Presentation" of the very elevated words of Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans, cryptic words which are inaccessible to most.

What Benedict had in mind in his words of the speech of December 22 was that no doctrine or teaching of the Church was (or even could have been) altered regarding this issue. But the Council DID choose to present, "define", the position of the Church in a more diplomatic and sensitive way, considering the political and humanitarian circumstances of the Post-War years. Since this was the issue about which the Pope spoke less in his speech, here are his own words:

To this [that is, the second issue of "relations with the modern State"], thirdly, was connected in a more general way the problem of religious tolerance -- a question that called for a new definition of the relationship between Christian faith and religion in the world. In particular, in the face of the recent crimes of the National-Socialist regime and, in general, in a retrospective look on a long and difficult history, it was necessary to evaluate and define in a new way the relationship between the Church and the faith of Israel.
Regarding the Old Covenant itself and the Mother of God as "holy Israel, the pure remnant", the Pope had remarkable words, filled with Patristic wisdom, to say in his homily of December 8 (which was a Marian prelude to the words of December 22), as we have already seen here.

In the next installment, the most important of the specific issues presented by Pope Benedict: relations with the modern State and Religious Freedom.