Annual Day of Judaism/ Day of Jewish-Catholic Dialogue

From Paul McKenna, Scarboro Missions Interfaith Dept.

In 1990, the Catholic Church in Italy introduced a “Day of Judaism” / a “Day of Jewish-Catholic Dialogue“. The intent of this annual celebration is to provide a special occasion each year to remember the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, to look with gratitude to the systematic dialogue with Judaism that has been going on since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), and to further encourage such dialogue in the current situation accompanied by practical activities.

This important day has been observed annually for more than 20 years in Italy as an opportunity to explore, observe, deepen and celebrate relations between Catholics and Jews.  It has also been observed in Austria, Poland, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Presently, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, has urged other countries in which Jews and Catholics live side by side and have kept up the dialogue for some time to consider introducing this annual day of reflection and dialogue. It is hoped that such a “Day of Jewish-Christian Dialogue” will also be introduced into the Canadian Church in the near future.

Below, please find an article from L’Osservatore Romano in Rome published in anticipation of the January 17, 2012 celebration of The Day of Judaism in Italy.

The special responsibility of Jews and Catholics

2012-01-16 L’Osservatore Romano

On 17 January, as in past years the Church in Italy will celebrate the “Day of Judaism” which affords a special opportunity to remember the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, to look with gratitude to the systematic dialogue with Judaism that has been going on since the Second Vatican Council, and to further encourage it in the current situation with practical actions. The Day of Judaism has so far been accepted by the Bishops’ Conferences of Austria, Poland, the Netherlands and Switzerland.  Cardinal Kurt Koch, who was appointed  President of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews by the Holy Father, has urged certain countries in which Jews and Catholics live side by side and have kept up a dialogue for some time to consider introducing this commemorative day.

The Jewish-Catholic dialogue began systematically after the Second Vatican Council. The Declaration Nostra Aetate (n. 4),H the starting point and the document on which this dialogue is based, still provides an indispensable orientation for every effort that aims for a  rapprochement  and reconciliation between Christians and Jews.

In 1966 Paul VI decided that an office should be set up within the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity that would be  responsible for planning and carrying ahead the dialogue with Jews.  Since it was impossible to initiate a bilateral dialogue with each one, the Holy See suggested that all the Jewish organizations interested in dialogue should gather in a single association that could be recognized as the official partner. So it was that the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) – which is still the official partner in the Jewish-Catholic dialogue – came into being. The Holy See in turn institutionalized the dialogue with the creation of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews on 22 October 1974. However, the first international conference for Jews and Catholics had already been held in Paris in 1971.

In his initial discourse Cardinal Kurt Koch mentioned the commemorative character of the meeting: “40 years of institutionalized dialogue are not many in comparison with the long history of the Jewish People and the 1,000-year-old history of the Catholic Church. But what happened in these 40 years can truly be seen as a great miracle worked by the Holy Spirit”.

From the theological viewpoint, Jews and Christians not only have a rich patrimony in common but can promote common values in society, work for human rights and collaborate in the social assistance and humanitarian aid sectors.

Judaism and Christianity, however, are called in a special way to promote  peace in this world. And they must do this together, because they have always been dependent on one another. The then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger emphasized this very close bond in an article which came out in L’Osservatore Romano on 29 December 2000: It is obvious that as Christians our dialogue with the Jews is on a different level than our dialogue with the other religions. For us the faith witnessed in the Bible by the Jews, the Old Testament of the Christians is not another religion but the foundation of our faith.

Norbert Hofmann, Secretary of the Commission for Relations with the Jews

Comments are closed.