On Thursday, Pope Francis met with a delegation of Jewish leaders at the Vatican to discuss the history and future of Jewish-Catholic relations, receiving their response to the Catholic Nostra Aetate, in which the rabbis declared the Christians to be “partners…in redeeming the world”.

The Jewish delegation presented the pope with a 9-page response to the Nostra Aetate, entitled “Between Jerusalem and Rome: Reflections on 50 Years of Nostra Aetate”.

The Nostra Aetate represented a step forward in Jewish-Christian reconciliation after a millennium of difficult relations. Released in 1965, the document declared that Catholicism distanced itself from replacement theology and withdrew blame from Jews for the death of Jesus, creating a space for Jewish-Catholic relations where there had been only enmity.

The response, signed by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Conference of European Rabbis and the Rabbinical Council of America, was welcomed by other Jewish groups as a large step towards improving Jewish-Catholic relations.

In their response, the rabbis acknowledged “that the emergence of Christianity in human history is neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations. In separating Judaism and Christianity, God willed a separation between partners with significant theological differences, not a separation between enemies.”

They cited Rabbi Jacob Emden, who wrote, “Christians are congregations that work for the sake of heaven who are destined to endure, whose intent is for the sake of heaven and whose reward will not denied.”

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The document concluded, “In imitating God, Jews and Christians must offer models of service, unconditional love and holiness. We are all created in God’s holy image, and Jews and Christians will remain dedicated to the Covenant by playing an active role together in redeeming the world.”

The response was signed by over 70 Orthodox rabbis. Rabbi Eugene Korn, academic director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding & Cooperation (CJCUC) and one of the signators, welcomed the rabbinic initiative.

“Religious Jews and religious Christians today are blessed to live in a new era of fraternal relationship,” Rabbi Korn wrote in an official statement. “Jews and Christians today can approach each other, respecting each other’s religious commitments, without betraying their religious traditions.

“In a world filled with secularism, moral relativism and religious extremism, Jews and Christians today have more in common than what separates them. Neither community can realize God’s prophetic mission for His children by itself. Only together can we fulfill what God asks of us.”

The CJCUC  posted the statement on their website in support.

“Any positive statement from Orthodox rabbinical bodies mainstreaming [interfaith] relations is much appreciated and encouraged,” David Nekrutman, CJCUC executive director, told Breaking Israel News. “Not everyone has to agree on the theological dialogue that we hold so sacred. This is an example of a great leap of courage by these rabbis that shows how Jewish Christian relations are so different than they were just half a century ago. We are living in miraculous times.”

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Source: Israel in the News