Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim


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V. Looking together to a common future
Looking to the future of relations between Christians and Jews, in the first place we appeal to our Catholic brothers and sisters to renew the awareness of the Hebrew roots of their faith. We ask them to keep in kind that Jesus was a descendant of David; that the Virgin Mary and the Apostles belonged to the Jewish people; that the Church draws sustenance from the root of that good olive tree on to which have been grafted the wild olive branches of the Gentiles (Cf. Romans 11:17-24); that the Jews are our dearly beloved brothers, indeed in a certain sense they are ''our elder brothers."21
At the end of this Millennium the Catholic Church desires to express her deep sorrow for the failures of her sons and daughters in every age. This is an act of repentance (teshuva), since, as members of the Church, we are linked to the sins as well as the merits of all her children. The Church approaches with deep respect and great compassion the experience of extermination, the Shoah , suffered by the Jewish people during World War II. It is not a matter of mere words, but indeed of binding commitment. ''We would risk causing the victims of the most atrocious deaths to die again if we do not have an ardent desire for justice, if we do not commit ourselves to ensure that evil does not prevail over good as it did for millions of children of the Jewish people ... Humanity cannot permit all that to happen again."22
We pray that our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people has suffered in our century will lead to a new relationship with the Jewish people. We wish to turn awareness of past sins into a firm resolve to build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Judaism among Christians or anti-Christian sentiment among Jews, but rather a shared mutual respect, as befits those who adore the one Creator and Lord and have a common father in faith, Abraham.
Finally, we invite all men and women of good will to reflect deeply on the significance of the Shoah . The victims from their graves, and the survivors through the vivid testimony of what they have suffered, have become a loud voice calling the attention of all of humanity. To remember this terrible experience is to become fully conscious of the salutary waning it entails: the spoiled seeds of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism must never again be allowed to take root in any human heart.
March 16, 1998
Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy President
The most Reverend Pierre Duprey Vice-President
The Reverend Remi Hoeckman, O.P. Secretary

1. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 10 November 1994, 33: AAS 87 (1995), 25.
2. Cf. Pope John Paul II, Speech at the Synagogue of Rome, 13 April 1986, 4: AAS 78 (1986), 1120.
3. Pope John Paul II, Angelus Prayer, 11 June 1995: Insegnamenti 18/1, 1995, 1712.
4. Pope John Paul II, Address to Jewish Leaders in Budapest, 18 August 1991, 4: Insegnamenti 14/2, 1991, 349.
5. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 1 May 1991, 17: AAS 83 (1991), 814-815.
6. Cf. Pope John Paul II, Address to Delegates of Episcopal Conferences for Catholic-Jewish Relations, 6 March 1982: Insegnamenti 5/1, 1982, 743-747.
7. Cf. Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church, 24 June 1985, VI, 1: Ench. Vat. 9, 1656.
8. Cf. Pope John Paul II, Speech to Symposium on the Roots of Anti-Judaism, 31 October 1997, 1: L'Osservatore Romano, 1 November 1997, p. 6.
9. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Nostra Aetate, 4.
10. Cf. B. Statiewski, ed. Akten Deutscher Bischöfe Über die Lage der Kirche, 1933-1945, vol. I, 1933-1934 (Mainz 1968), Appendix.
11. Cf. L. Volk, Der Bayerische Episkopat und der Nationalsoziaismus 1930-1934 (Mainz 1966), pp. 170-174.
12. The Encyclical is dated 14 March 1937: AAS 29 (1937), 145-167.
13. La Documentation Catholique, 29 (1938), col. 1460.
14. AAS 31 (1939), 413-453.
15. Ibid., 449.
16. The wisdom of Pope Pius XII's diplomacy was publicly acknowledged on a number of occasions by representatives of Jewish Organizations and personalities. For example, on 7 September 1945, Dr. Joseph Nathan, who represented the Italian Hebrew Communities, stated: "Above all, we acknowledge the Supreme Pontiff and the religious men and women who, executing the directives of the Holy Father, recognized the persecuted as their brothers and, with effort and abnegation, hastened to help us, disregarding the terrible dangers to which they were exposed" (L'Osservatore Romano, 8 September, 1945, p. 2). On 21 September of that same year, Pius XII received in audience Dr. A Leo Kubowitzki, Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress who came to present "to the Holy Father, in the name of the Union of Israelitic Communities, warmest thanks for the efforts of the Catholic Church on behalf of Jews throughout Europe during the War" (L'Osservatore Romano, 23 September 1945, p. 1). On Thursday, 29 November 1945, the Pope met about 80 representatives of Jewish refugees from various concentration camps in Germany, who expressed "their great honour at being able to thank the Holy Father personally for his generosity towards those persecuted during the Nazi-Fascist period" (L'Osservatore Romano, 30 November 1945, p. 1). In 1958, at the death of Pope Pius XII, Golda Meir sent an eloquent message: "We share in the grief of humanity. When fearful martyrdom came to our people, the voice of the Pope was raised for its victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out about great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace."
17. Cf. Pope John Paul II, Address to the New Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Holy See, 8 November 1990, 2: AAS 83 (1991), 587-588.
18. Loc. cit., no. 4.
19. Address to Jewish Leaders, Strasbourg, 9 October 1988, no. 8: Insegnamenti 11/3, 1988, 1134.
20. Pope John Paul II, Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 15 January 1994, 9: AAS 86 (1994), 816.
21. Pope John Paul II, Speech at the Synagogue of Rome, 13 April 1986, 4: AAS 78 (1986), 1120.
22. Pope John Paul II, Address on the Occasion of a Commemoration of the Shoah, 7 April 1994, 3: Insegnamenti 17/1, 1994, 897 and 893.
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