Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Remembering the Vatican's 'total rejection' of anti-Zionism

As a Jewish convert to Catholicism who desires ardently that everyone, especially my loved ones, should find the salvation granted through Jesus Christ, I am distressed to see, following Israel's attempt to stop Hamas's violence against its citizens, some Catholics claim the true villain in the conflict is Zionism itself.

It is true that the Catholic Church, unlike some Protestant churches (particularly Evangelical ones), does not hold that political Israel fulfills a biblical mandate. But, while not endorsing Zionism, the Church totally rejects anti-Zionism, maintains that the Jews and Palestinians each have a right to a homeland, and insists that Israel itself has a right to exist.

Those who proclaim or hold otherwise are acting contrary to Magisterial statements. More than that, I believe very strongly from my own experience that they are doing a great disservice to Catholicism by projecting a distorted image of the Church, reeking of Feeneyism, that risks alienating Jews who might otherwise be receptive to the Faith.

In July 2004, the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews issued a total rejection of anti-Zionism in the Joint Declaration of the 18th International Catholic-Jewish Liason Committee Meeting in Buenos Aires:

As we approach the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate - the ground-breaking declaration of the Second Vatican Council which repudiated the deicide charge against Jews, reaffirmed the Jewish roots of Christianity and rejected anti-Semitism - we take note of the many positive changes within the Catholic Church with respect to her relationship with the Jewish People. These past forty years of our fraternal dialogue stand in stark contrast to almost two millennia of a "teaching of contempt" and all its painful consequences. We draw encouragement from the fruits of our collective strivings which include the recognition of the unique and unbroken covenantal relationship between God and the Jewish People and the total rejection of anti-Semitism in all its forms, including anti-Zionism as a more recent manifestation of anti-Semitism.
Pope John Paul II himself spoke repeatedly of Israel's right to exist in peace and security, as in a 1987 address to U.S. Jewish leaders in which he quoted an earlier Apostolic Letter of his [emphasis in the original]:
After the tragic extermination of the Shoah, the Jewish people began a new period in their history. They have a right to a homeland as does any civil nation, according to international law. "For the Jewish people who live in the State of Israel and who preserve in that land such precious testimonies to their history and their faith, we must ask for the desired security and the due tranquillity that is the prerogative of every nation and condition of life and of progress for every society" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptionis Anno, die 20 apr. 1984: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, VII, 1 (1984) 1072).
People of good will may disagree on political solutions to Holy Land strife, but all should condemn anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism as being clearly outside the mind of the Church.

RELATED:
  • Ha'aretz covered reaction from Jews to the 2004 Joint Declaration condemning anti-Zionism.

  • Rabbi David Rosen, a former chief rabbi of Ireland and director of the American Jewish Committee’s department of interreligious affairs, writing in the Forward, explains what is meant by the Church's former "teaching of contempt" mentioned in the Joint Statement above, and details how the Vatican II document "Nostra Aetate" definitively rejected such teaching.

  • A 1975 Vatican document, "Notes on the correct way to present the Jews and Judaism in preaching and catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church," further elucidates how the Church's relationship with Israel and the Jewish people is to be understood by Catholics.