Thursday, October 09, 2008

The People of the Book

Chief Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen (R) is greeted by Pope Benedict XVI

On Monday 6th October 2008, Shear Yashuv Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Haifa, addressed the world Synod of Bishops in the Vatican on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church"

There is a full Report of his speech in Zenit

It was a historic occasion: the first time a Jewish Rabbi had been invited to address a plenary session of the Synod of Bishops.

Dressed in a dark suit, a black yarmulke on his gray wispy hair, and in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI, the Rabbi said, that his standing "here before you is very meaningful. It brings with it a signal of hope and a message of love, co-existence, and peace for our generation, and for generations to come."

He described at length the central place of the Holy Scriptures in the practice of the Jewish Religion.

He also discussed how important the Holy Scriptures are in the life of the State of Israel

However he warned the Fathers of forthcoming dangers which affect the State of Israel and members of the Jewish faith:

"I feel I cannot conclude my address without expressing our deep shock at the terrible and vicious words of the president of a certain state in the Middle East, in his speech last month at the United Nations General Assembly. The false and malicious accusations, the threats and the Anti-Semitic incitement, have brought back to us the painful memory of the tragedy of our people -- the victims the Holocaust, which we hope and pray will never happen again. We hope to get your help as Religious Leaders -- as well as the help of the entire free world -- to protect, defend and save Israel, the one and only sovereign state of the “People of the Book” from the hands of its enemies."

He concluded his speech thus:

"May I conclude by praying with the famous words taken from the prophecy of the Prophet Isaiah, regarding the days to come: “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters over the sea." (Isaiah 11:6-9)

May we be blessed to have it happen in our own days. Amen!"

The historic address was followed by an address of Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, a Jesuit, a former rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and former secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, on The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible He said there were two topics of discussion:

"Two distinct and complementary themes can be found in this title, which correspond to two questions. The first is: How is the Jewish people presented in the Christian Bible, that is to say in the Old Testament and in the New? The second question is: What place do the “Sacred Scriptures” of the Jewish people occupy in the Christian Bible? "

He went on:

"“On the practical level of exegesis, Christians can, nonetheless, learn much from Jewish exegesis practiced for more than two thousand years, and, in fact, they have learned much in the course of history.” ...“it is to be hoped” by Christian exegetes “ that Jews themselves can derive profit from Christian exegetical research” "

He concluded:

"... the New Testament is “in serious disagreement with the vast majority of the Jewish people”, because “it is essentially a proclamation of the fulfilment of God's plan in Jesus Christ (announced in the Old Testament), puts it in serious disagreement with the vast majority of the Jewish people who do not accept this fulfilment.[...] Although profound, such disagreement in no way implies reciprocal hostility. The example of Paul in Rm 9:11 shows that, on the contrary, an attitude of respect, esteem and love for the Jewish people is the only truly Christian attitude in a situation which is mysteriously part of the beneficent and positive plan of God.”

“Dialogue is possible, since Jews and Christians share a rich common patrimony that unites them. It is greatly to be desired that prejudice and misunderstanding be gradually eliminated on both sides, in favor of a better understanding of the patrimony they share and to strengthen the links that bind them”

In this direction, complete docility to the Word of God urges the Church to progress."

However it is to be hoped that the Pope`s commemoration of the death of Pope Pius XII today will not stop the progress of Catholic-Jewish relations. But the issue of Pope Pius XII is a very divisive issue which for many people of the Jewish faith is an extremely painful one.

Rabbi Cohen has said in Haareetz that "I did not know [the anniversary commemorations] happened during the same meeting. If I had known ... I might have refrained from coming because we feel that the pain is still here,"

"I have to make it very clear that we, the rabbis, the leadership of the Jewish people, cannot as long as the survivors still feel painful agree that this leader of the Church in a time of crisis should be honored now. It is not our decision. It pains us. We are sorry it is being done,"

Cohen said only God knows if Pius spoke out enough against the Holocaust: "God is the judge ... he knows the truth".