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Interfaith


Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: Reflections On Catholics and Jews

Posted: April 20, 2005

In December 29, 2000, German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote a Christmas-season reflection for L'Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican,
titled "The Heritage of Abraham: The Gift of Christmas." The future Pope Benedict XVI expressed remorse for the anti-Jewish attitudes that persisted in the church throughout history, leading to "deplorable acts of violence" and the loss of six million Jews and others in the Holocaust.

The following are excerpts from Cardinal Ratzinger's 1990 Christmas Reflection:

… Abraham, father of the people of Israel, father of faith, thus become the source of blessing, for in him all the families of the earth shall call themselves blessed. The task of the Chosen People is, therefore, to make a gift of their God – the one true God – to every other people; in reality, as Christians we are the inheritors of their faith in the one God. Our gratitude, therefore, must be extended to our Jewish brothers and sisters who, despite the hardships of their own history, have held on to faith in this God right up to the present, and who witness to it in the sight of those peoples who, lacking knowledge of the one God, dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Down through the history of Christianity, already-strained relations deteriorated further, even giving birth in many cases to anti-Jewish attitudes, which throughout history have led to deplorable acts of violence. Even if the most recent, loathsome experience of the Shoah was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian ideology, which tried to strike the Christian faith at its Abrahamic roots in the people of Israel it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to its atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians.

Perhaps it is precisely because of this latest tragedy that a new vision of the relationship between the Church and Israel has been born: a sincere willingness to overcome every kind of anti-Judaism, and to initiate a constructive dialogue based on knowledge of each other, and on reconciliation. If such a dialogue is to be fruitful, it must begin with a prayer to our God, first of all that he might grant to us Christians a greater esteem and love for that people – the people of Israel – to whom belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs are the patriarchs, and from them comes Christ according to the flesh, he who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen. And this not only in the past, but still today, for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. In the same way, let us pray that he may grant also to the children of Israel a deeper knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, who is their son, and the gift they have made to us. Since we are both awaiting the final redemption, let us pray that the paths we follow may converge.

It is evident that, as Christians, our dialogue with the Jews is situated on a different level than that in which we engage with other religions. The faith witnessed to by the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament for Christians) is not merely another religion to us, but is the foundation of our own faith. Therefore, Christians – and today increasingly in collaboration with their Jewish sisters and brothers – read and attentively study these books of Sacred Scripture, as a part of their common heritage.

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