ADL Welcomes Vatican Document on Christian Responsibility as Step Forward in Reconciling Past Wrongs Against Jews
New York, NY, March 6, 2000 Ö The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed a new Vatican document that seeks forgiveness for members of the Catholic Church and Catholic institutions for wrongdoings throughout history, calling it "a step forward in recognizing Christian responsibility for past wrongs against Jews."
Referring to a "tormented history" with Jews, the Vatican document, Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past, prepared by the Holy See International Commission, reviews wrongdoings dating back centuries, including the Crusades, the Inquisition, and more recently, the Holocaust. The document will be presented by Pope John Paul II on the eve of his historic pilgrimage to the State of Israel.
"We believe this represents a step forward in recognizing Christian responsibility for past wrongs against Jews throughout history," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, and Rabbi Leon Klenicki, ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs. "The document emphasizes the importance for Christians to recognize atrocities committed against Jews, a subject that has high significance and meaning in light of the Popeís decision to visit Israel."
A special section of the report, titled "The Question of Christians and Jews" addresses several important issues with regard to the Churchís relationship with Judaism, including:
- The relationship requires a Christian reckoning of the soul, especially "of the special relationship of the Church to the Jewish people." That relationship has a "tormented history," the document notes, adding that "the hostility of many Christians against the Jews, in the course of centuries, is a painful historical reality" and of "great regret on the Christian conscience."
- The document states, "Itís necessary to ask ourselves if the Nazi persecution of Jews was not facilitated by the anti-Jewish prejudice present in the spirits and the hearts of certain Christians Ö and one has to ask if Christians have offered enough help to victims, and especially in helping Jews?"
- The document points out that many Christians risked their lives to save Jews during World War II. However, "it is also true that besides those courageous men and women, many Christians failed to follow the Christian way and didnít behave as the Disciples of Christ" in saving more Jews.
- Christians should partake in the process of repentance in their relations with Jews. The document uses the Hebrew word "teshuvah," or penitence, to emphasize this notion of a change of heart.
The document emphasizes the need for Christians to remember that they should include in their moral and religious memory the atrocities committed against the Jews and, in this respect, "much should be done to confirm and deepen this feeling."
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.