Guidelines on Religious Relations with the Jews

         Committee for Religious Relations with the Jews
                         1 December 1974
    The Declaration <Nostra Aetate>, issued by the Second Vatican
Council on 28 October, 1965, "on the relationship of the Church
to non-Christian religions" (n.4), marks an important milestone
in the history of Jewish-Christian relations.
    Moreover, the step taken by the Council finds its historical
setting in circumstances deeply affected by the memory of the
persecution and massacre of Jews which took place in Europe just
before and during the Second World War.
    Although Christianity sprang from Judaism, taking from it
certain essential elements of its faith and divine worship, the
gap dividing them was deepened more and more, to such an extent
that Christian and Jew hardly knew each other.
    After two thousand years, too often marked by mutual
ignorance and frequent confrontation, the Declaration <Nostra
Aetate> provides an opportunity to open or to continue a dialogue
with a view to better mutual understanding.  Over the past nine
years, many steps in this direction have been taken in various
countries.  As a result, it is easier to define the conditions
under which a new relationship between Jews and Christians may be
worked out and developed.  This seems the right moment to
propose, following the guidelines of the Council, some concrete
suggestions born of experience, hoping that they will help to
bring into actual existence in the life of the Church the
intentions expressed in the conciliar document.
    While referring the reader back to this document, we may
simply restate here that the spiritual bonds and historical links
binding the Church to Judaism condemn (as opposed to the very
spirit of Christianity) all forms of anti-semitism and
discrimination, which in any case the dignity of the human person
alone would suffice to condemn.  Further still, these links and
relationships render obligatory a better mutual understanding and
renewed mutual esteem.  On the practical level in particular,
Christians must therefore strive to acquire a better knowledge of
the basic components of the religious tradition of Judaism; they
must strive to learn by what essential traits the Jews define
themselves in the light of their own religious experience.
    With due respect for such matters of principle, we simply
propose some first practical applications in different essential
areas of the Church's life, with a view to launching or
developing sound relations between Catholics and their Jewish
                           I. DIALOGUE
    To tell the truth, such relations as there have been between
Jew and Christian have scarcely ever risen above the level of
monologue.  From now on, real dialogue must be established.
    Dialogue presupposes that each side wishes to know the other,
and wishes to increase and deepen its knowledge of the other.  It
constitutes a particularly suitable means of favoring a better
mutual knowledge and, especially in the case of dialogue between
Jews and Christians, of probing the riches of one's own
tradition.  Dialogue demands respect for the other as he is;
above all, respect for his faith and his religious convictions.
    In virtue of her divine mission, and her very nature, the
Church must preach Jesus Christ to the world (<Ad Gentes>, n. 2).
Lest the witness of Catholics to Jesus Christ should give offence
to Jews, they must take care to live and spread their Christian
faith while maintaining the strictest respect for religious
liberty in line with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council
(Declaration <Dignitatis Humanae>).  They will likewise strive to
understand the difficulties which arise for the Jewish soul --
rightly imbued with an extremely high, pure notion of the divine
transcendence -- when faced with the mystery of the incarnate
    While it is true that a widespread air of suspicion, inspired
by an unfortunate past, is still dominant in this particular
area, Christians, for their part, will be able to see to what
extent the responsibility is theirs and deduce practical
conclusions for the future.
    In addition to friendly talks, competent people will be
encouraged to meet and to study together the many problems
deriving from the fundamental convictions of Judaism and of
Christianity.  In order not to hurt (even involuntarily) those
taking part, it will be vital to guarantee, not only tact, but a
great openness of spirit and diffidence with respect to one's own
    In whatever circumstances as shall prove possible and
mutually acceptable, one might encourage a common meeting in the
presence of God, in prayer and silent meditation -- a highly
efficacious way of finding that humility, that openness of heart
and mind, necessary prerequisites for a deep knowledge of oneself
and of others.  In particular, that will be done in conjunction
with great causes such as the struggle for peace and justice.
                           II. LITURGY
    The existing links between the Christian liturgy and the
Jewish liturgy will be borne in mind.  The idea of a living
community in the service of God, and in the service of men for
the love of God, such as it is realized in the liturgy, is just
as characteristic of the Jewish liturgy as it is of the Christian
one.  To improve Jewish-Christian relations, it is important to
take cognizance of those common elements of the liturgical life
(formulas, feasts, rites, etc.) in which the Bible holds an
essential place.
    An effort will be made to acquire a better understanding of
whatever in the Old Testament retains its own perpetual value
(cf. <Dei Verbum>, n. 14-15), since that has not been cancelled
by the later interpretations of the New Testament.  Rather, the
New Testament brings out the full meaning of the Old, while both
Old and New illumine and explain each other (cf. <ibid.>, n. 16).
This is all the more important since liturgical reform is now
bringing the text of the Old Testament ever more frequently to
the attention of Christians.
    When commenting on biblical texts, emphasis will be laid on
the continuity of our faith with that of the earlier Covenant, in
the perspective of the promises, without minimizing those
elements of Christianity which are original.  We believe that
those promises were fulfilled with the first coming of Christ.
But it is none the less true that we still await their perfect
fulfilment in his glorious return at the end of time.
    With respect to liturgical readings, care will be taken to
see that homilies based on them will not distort their meaning,
especially when it is a question of passages which seem to show
the Jewish people as such in an unfavorable light.  Efforts will
be made so to instruct the Christian people that they will
understand the true interpretation of all the texts and their
meaning for the contemporary believer.
    Commissions entrusted with the task of liturgical translation
will pay particular attention to the way in which they express
those phrases and passages which Christians, if not well
informed, might misunderstand because of prejudice.  Obviously,
one cannot alter the text of the Bible.  The point is that, with
a version destined for liturgical use, there should be an
overriding preoccupation to bring out explicitly the meaning of a
text, [1] while taking scriptural studies into account.
    The preceding remarks also apply to introductions to biblical
readings, to the Prayer of the Faithful, and to commentaries
printed in missals used by the laity.
                   III. TEACHING AND EDUCATION
    Although there is still a great deal of work to be done, a
better understanding of Judaism itself and its relationship to
Christianity has been achieved in recent years thanks to the
teaching of the Church, the study and research of scholars, and
also to the beginning of dialogue.  In this respect, the
following facts deserve to be recalled.
    It is the same God, "inspirer and author of the books of both
Testaments," (Dei Verbum>, n. 16), who speaks both in the old and
new Covenants.
    Judaism in the time of Christ and the Apostles was a complex
reality, embracing many different trends, many spiritual,
religious, social and cultural values.
    The Old Testament and the Jewish tradition founded upon it
must not be set against the New Testament in such a way that the
former seems to constitute a religion of only justice, fear and
legalism, with no appeal to the love of God and neighbor (cf.
Deut. 6:5, Lev. 19:18, Matt. 22:34-40).
    Jesus was born of the Jewish people, as were his Apostles and
a large number of his first disciples.  When he revealed himself
as the Messiah and Son of God (cf. Mt. 16:16), the bearer of the
new Gospel messages, he did so as the fulfilment and perfection
of the earlier Revelation.  And, although his teaching had a
profoundly new character, Christ nevertheless, in many instances,
took his stand on the teaching of the Old Testament.  The New
Testament is profoundly marked by its relation to the Old.  As
the Second Vatican Council declared:  "God, the inspirer and
author of the books of both Testaments, wisely arranged that the
New Testament be hidden in the Old and the Old be made manifest
in the New" (Dei Verbum>, n. 16).  Jesus also used teaching
methods similar to those employed by the rabbis of his time.
    With regard to the trial and death of Jesus, the Council
recalled that "what happened in his passion cannot be blamed upon
all the Jews then living, without distinction, nor upon the Jews
of today" (<Nostra Aetate>, n. 4).
    The history of Judaism did not end with the destruction of
Jerusalem, but rather went on to develop a religious tradition.
And, although we believe that the importance and meaning of that
tradition were deeply affected by the coming of Christ, it is
still nonetheless rich in religious values.
    With the prophets and the apostle Paul, "the Church awaits
the day, known to God alone, on which all peoples will address
the Lord in a single voice and 'serve him with one accord'"(Soph.
3:9) (<Nostra Aetate>, n. 4).
    Information concerning these questions is important at all
levels of Christian instruction and education.  Among sources of
information, special attention should be paid to the following:
    catechisms and religious textbooks
    history books
    the mass-media (press, radio, cinema, television)
    The effective use of these means presupposes the thorough
formation of instructors and educators in training schools,
seminaries and universities.
    Research into the problems bearing on Judaism and Jewish-
Christian relations will be encouraged among specialists,
particularly in the fields of exegesis, theology, history and
sociology.  Higher institutions of Catholic research, in
association if possible with other similar Christian institutions
and experts, are invited to contribute to the solution of such
problems.  Wherever possible, chairs of Jewish studies will be
created, and collaboration with Jewish scholars encouraged.
                    IV.  JOINT SOCIAL ACTION
    Jewish and Christian tradition, founded on the Word of God,
is aware of the value of the human person, the image of God.
Love of the same God must show itself in effective action for the
good of mankind.  In the spirit of the prophets, Jews and
Christians will work together, seeking social justice and peace
at every level -- local, national and international.
    At the same time, such collaboration can do much to foster
mutual understanding and esteem.
    The Second Vatican Council has pointed out the path to follow
in promoting deep fellowship between Jews and Christians.  But
there is still a long road ahead.
    The problem of Jewish-Christian relations concerns the Church
as such, since it is when "pondering her own mystery" that she
encounters the mystery of Israel.  Therefore, even in areas where
no Jewish communities exist, this remains an important problem.
There is also an ecumenical aspect to the question:  the very
return of Christians to the sources and origins of their faith,
grafted on to the earlier Covenant, helps the search for unity in
Christ, the cornerstone.
    In this field, the bishops will know what best to do on the
pastoral level, within the general disciplinary framework of the
Church and in line with the common teaching of her magisterium.
For example, they will create some suitable commissions or
secretariats on a national or regional level, or appoint some
competent person to promote the implementation of the conciliar
directives and the suggestions made above.
    On 22 October, 1974, the Holy Father instituted for the
universal Church this Commission for Religious Relations with the
Jews, joined to the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity.
This special Commission, created to encourage and foster
religious relations between Jews and Catholics -- and to do so
eventually in collaboration with other Christians -- will be,
within the limits of its competence, at the service of all
interested organizations, providing information for them, and
helping them to pursue their task in conformity with the
instructions of the Holy See.
    The Commission wishes to develop this collaboration in order
to implement, correctly and effectively, the express intentions
of the Council.
    (The English text was issued by the Commission.  An Italian
    text was published in <L'Osservatore Romano>, 4 Jan. 1975.)
1.  Thus the formula "the Jews," in St. John, sometimes according
    to the context means "the leaders of the Jews," or "the
    adversaries of Jesus," terms which express better the thought
    of the evangelist and avoid appearing to arraign the Jewish
    people as such.  Another example is the use of the words
    "pharisee" and "pharisaism," which have taken on a largely
    pejorative meaning.