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Press ReleaseVatican-Jewish Relations
Jewish Leaders Welcome Removal of Conversionary Language from American Catholic Document

New York, NY, October 26, 2009 A coalition of national Jewish interfaith leaders welcomed assurances from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that it would remove problematic language from a new document that described interfaith dialogue as an implicit invitation to baptism.

After hearing concerns from the national Jewish coalition, the Bishops Conference pledged to revise the text to eliminate the conversionary language.  In an October 5 letter to five Jewish organizations, the bishops indicated that Catholic-Jewish dialogue "has never been and will never be used by the Catholic Church as a means of proselytism nor is it a disguised invitation to baptism."

The coalition is composed of the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Council of Synagogues, the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America.

"We welcome the fact that the bishops not only heard our concerns, but are making efforts to be responsive to them," the coalition said in a statement.  "We were deeply troubled by the original wording of this document, and hope this will now put our dialogue back on a positive track."

Members of the coalition include Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, American Jewish Committee, Rabbi Eric Greenberg, Anti Defamation League, Rabbi Gilbert A. Rosenthal, National Council of Synagogoues, Professor Lawrence Schiffman, Orthodox Union, and Rabbi David Berger, Rabbinical Council of America.  (To reach any of the members of the coalition contact

The full text of the letter to the Catholic Bishops Conference follows:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009  

Cardinal Francis George,                                                          
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Archbishop Wilton Gregory,
Chairman, Bishops Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs

Bishop William Lori,
Chairman, Bishops Committee on Doctrine and Pastoral Practice

Father James Massa,
Executive Director, Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs

Father Thomas Weinandy,
Executive Director, Secretariat of Doctrine

Cardinal William Keeler,
Moderator, Catholic-Jewish dialogue

Dear Esteemed Colleagues:

We are gratified at the response to our letter of concern of August 18 and are pleased that you have reaffirmed your belief that our covenant "endures till the present day."  We are also pleased by your public affirmation that our dialogue "is not a disguised invitation to baptism" and are reassured by your commitment that the final text of the Note will be revised to eliminate the passage that appeared to indicate the contrary. 

We have had our misunderstandings in the past, but we have surmounted them and strengthened our relationship in the spirit of Vatican II that is so precious to all. We have come a long way in our relationship of trust and respect and we have a way to go. Some of us will no doubt explore the more limited view of the Mosaic covenant expressed in your Note as we proceed to learn from each other. But all of us, no matter our differences, concur in the need to dispel misunderstanding and continue to engage in fruitful discussion that will strengthen our relationship and enhance our friendship.


Rabbi Gary Greenebaum
American Jewish Committee

Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg
Anti-Defamation League

Rabbi Gilbert S. Rosenthal
National Council of Synagogues

Professor Lawrence Schiffman
Orthodox Union

Rabbi Dr. David Berger
Rabbinical Council of America

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