Cardinal Kurt Koch: Second Vatican Council Nostra Aetate declaration relating to Jews binding on Catholics
Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch – President of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews – has made some very positive comments relating to the Catholic Church’s relationship with the Jewish people.
His comments were made against the backdrop of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) ongoing reconciliation talks with the Vatican, and more specifically, the controversial Bishop Richard Nelson Williamson within the society, noted for his Holocaust denial.
I have previously posted on Bishop Richard Nelson Williamson if you’re interested.
The Nostra Aetate revolutionised the Catholic Church’s relationship with those of other faiths; most notably the Jews. Here is the core text relating to the Jews:
As Holy Scripture testifies, Jerusalem did not recognize the time of her visitation,(9) nor did the Jews in large number, accept the Gospel; indeed not a few opposed its spreading.(10) Nevertheless, God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues-such is the witness of the Apostle.(11) In company with the Prophets and the same Apostle, the Church awaits that day, known to God alone, on which all peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and “serve him shoulder to shoulder” (Soph. 3:9).(12)
Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.
True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ;(13) still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.
Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.
And here’s some of the article from the Catholic News Service detailing Cardinal Kurt Koch’s comments:
“All the doctrinal decisions of the church are binding on a Catholic, including the Second Vatican Council and all its texts,” Cardinal Koch said when asked if the SSPX would be expected to accept all the teachings of Vatican II. “The ‘Nostra Aetate’ declaration of the Second Vatican Council is a clear decree and is important for every Catholic,” he added.
At the same time, Cardinal Koch said, “it is very necessary to make clear the difference between the position of the Society of St. Pius X and the negation of the Shoah (the Holocaust), which is a position that has no place in the Catholic Church. It is very clear.”
Following the revelation of Bishop Williamson’s comments about the Holocaust, SSPX leaders issued a statement saying his position in no way reflected the views of the society. “I’m very happy about this,” Cardinal Koch said. “The Holy Father has spoken clearly about this position of Williamson, that it’s not possible, there is no place for deniers in the Catholic Church.”
In his speech at Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Cardinal Koch said “Nostra Aetate” is “the ‘foundation document’ and the ‘Magna Carta’ of the dialogue of the Roman Catholic Church with Judaism.”
The declaration highlighted the Jewish roots of Christianity and took “an unambiguous position against every form of anti-Semitism,” he said.
The church’s theological reflection on its Jewish roots, as well as on the relationship between God’s covenant with the Jewish people and the new covenant instituted by Christ have been developed further and authoritatively by Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, he said.
God’s plan of salvation for humanity began with his covenant with the Jewish people and if Christianity ignores that, he said, “it is in danger of losing its location within salvation history.”
Cardinal Koch said that for Pope Benedict, the key to the theological understanding of the importance of a relationship with Judaism and Jews is that the Bible is one book detailing the entire history of salvation.
While Catholics profess that, in the end, all salvation will be accomplished through Jesus Christ, “it does not necessarily follow that the Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel and the son of God,” the cardinal said. “That the Jews are participants in God’s salvation is theologically unquestionable, but how that can be possible without confessing Christ explicitly is and remains an unfathomable divine mystery.”
The cardinal said, “The Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed toward the Jews,” but that does not exclude Christians bearing witness to their faith “in an unassuming and humble manner.”