Catholic and Jewish Relations

A New Perspective

The Declaration “Nostra Aetate” (October 1965) is the official document that enabled the Catholic world, on the one hand, to reflect about its own history and identity and, on the other hand, to rethink its relationship with Judaism and with the Jewish people. By this Declaration, the Church has made a great leap in her relationship with Judaism and the Jewish people with the elaboration of a new teaching through documents published over more than 50 years. This new ecclesial way of thinking about Judaism urges Catholics to have a new Christian attitude towards the Jewish people and Judaism. Nonetheless, without a clear Christian consciousness of our faith and tradition, Judaism remains extrinsic to the Christian faith.

The Council is not creating anything new but making possible for Catholics to rediscover their relationship with Judaism and with the Jewish people, which was lost or forgotten throughout history.

Obviously, the abandonment of these values, or forgetfulness, did not happen by chance. That was the result of the elaboration of thought and practice throughout many centuries, with Theological teachings that turned out to be a deviation from the true vocation and identity of the Church. This is what Jules Isaac called “teaching of contempt”.

We now are to take an attitude at two levels:

Ad intra: How we as Catholic Christians must conceive our Christian faith in relation to the existence of the Jewish people with God’s promises towards them until our days?

Ad extra: An encounter with Judaism, not only with the Biblical Judaism of the past, which existed until the destruction of the Second Temple, and which we cannot forget, since it is part of our own History as well; but this is about finding the perennial Judaism, the one which is still alive among us in the historical reality of today. This is about knowing and recognizing the Jewish people as they define themselves today and, above all, meeting the people who returned to their land, the land of Israel.

The ad intra relationship leads Christianity to discover its roots and its relationship of dependence towards Judaism. On the other hand, the encounter with the living Judaism, which is concrete throughout history and today, produces a clear awareness of the Christian identity as a whole reality, grafted onto the good roots of the Jewish people, establishing a vision of  Judaism as it is, in its history, in its values, and in its Land, with an existential value for them and a new Theological understanding for us.


Elio Passeto, nds
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