Holy Father reaffirms that 'whoever meets Jesus
Christ meets Judaism'
On Friday, 19 August , the Holy Father began the morning by
celebrating Private Mass in the Chapel at the Archbishop's Residence
with about 20 young people, members of the 2005 World Youth Day Planning
Committee. He then paid a courtesy visit to President Horst Köhler
at the Villa Hammerschmidt in Bonn.
midday, the Pope went to the Synagogue of Cologne to speak with the
city's Jewish Community, one of the oldest in Northern Europe. The Nazis
killed more than 11,000 of Cologne's Jewish population and a new Jewish
Community settled there in 1945; the Synagogue, destroyed in 1938, was
rebuilt in 1959. The Holy Father was welcomed there by Rabbi Netanel
Teitelbaum and by Abraham Lehrer, a member of the Presidency Council of
the Jewish Community.
following is a translation of the Pope's Address, given in German.
Distinguished Jewish Authorities, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
I greet all those who have already been mention. Shalom lechem!
It has been my deep desire, during my first
visit to Germany since my election as the Successor of the Apostle
Peter, to meet the Jewish community of Cologne and the representatives
of Judaism in Germany. By this visit I would like to return in spirit to
the meeting that took place in Mainz on 17 November 1980 between my
venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II, then making his first visit to
this country, and members of the Central Jewish Committee in Germany and
the Rabbinic Conference.
Building improved relations
Today too I wish to reaffirm that I intend to
continue on the path towards improved relations and friendship with the
Jewish People, following the decisive lead given by Pope John Paul II
(cf. Address to the Delegation of the International Jewish Committee
on Interreligious Consultations, 9 June 2005: L’Osservatore
Romano, 10 June 2005, p. 5).
The Jewish community in Cologne can truly feel "at home" in this
city. Cologne is, in fact, the oldest site of a Jewish community on
German soil, dating back to the Colonia of Roman times.
The history of
relations between the Jewish and Christian communities has been complex
and often painful. There were times when the two lived together
peacefully, but there was also the expulsion of the Jews from Cologne in
the year 1424.
And in the twentieth century, in the darkest period of
German and European history, an insane racist ideology, born of
neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically
carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry. The result has
passed into history as the Shoah.
The victims of this unspeakable
and previously unimaginable crime amounted to seven thousand named
individuals in Cologne alone; the real figure was surely much higher.
The holiness of God was no longer recognized, and consequently contempt
was shown for the sacredness of human life.
This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the
Nazi concentration camps, in which millions of Jews – men, women and
children – were put to death in the gas chambers and ovens.
I make my
own the words written by my venerable Predecessor on the occasion of the
sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and I too say: "I
bow my head before all those who experienced this manifestation of the
mysterium iniquitatis." The terrible events of that time must
"never cease to rouse consciences, to resolve conflicts, to inspire the
building of peace" (Message for the Liberation of Auschwitz, 15
Together we must remember God and his wise plan for the
world which he created. As we read in the Book of Wisdom, he is the
"lover of life" (11:26).
This year also marks the fortieth anniversary of the promulgation of
the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration Nostra Aetate, which
opened up new prospects for Jewish-Christian relations in terms of
dialogue and solidarity. This Declaration, in the fourth chapter,
recalls the common roots and the immensely rich spiritual heritage that
Jews and Christians share.
Both Jews and Christians recognize in Abraham
their father in faith (cf. Gal 3:7, Rom 4:11ff.) and they look to the
teachings of Moses and the prophets. Jewish spirituality, like its
Christian counterpart, draws nourishment from the psalms. With Saint
Paul, Christians are convinced that "the gifts and the call of God are
irrevocable" (Rom 11:29, cf. 9:6,11; 11:1ff.). In considering the Jewish
roots of Christianity (cf. Rom 11:16-24), my venerable Predecessor,
quoting a statement by the German Bishops, affirmed that: "whoever meets
Jesus Christ meets Judaism" (Insegnamenti, vol. III/2, 1980, p.
The conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate therefore "deplores
feelings of hatred, persecutions and demonstrations of antisemitism
directed against the Jews at whatever time and by whomsoever" (No. 4).
God created us all "in his image" (cf. Gen 1:27) and thus honoured us
with a transcendent dignity. Before God, all men and women have the same
dignity, whatever their nation, culture or religion.
Declaration Nostra Aetate also speaks with great esteem of
Muslims (cf. No. 3) and of the followers of other religions (cf. No. 2).
On the basis of our shared human dignity the Catholic Church "condemns
as foreign to the mind of Christ any kind of discrimination whatsoever
between people, or harassment of them, done by reason of race or colour,
class or religion" (No. 5).
Duty to teach dignity
The Church is conscious of her duty to
transmit this teaching, in her catechesis and in every aspect of her
life, to the younger generations which did not witness the terrible
events that took place before and during the Second World War.
It is a
particularly important task, since today, sadly, we are witnessing the
rise of new signs of antisemitism and various forms of a general
hostility towards foreigners. How can we fail to see in this a reason
for concern and vigilance?
The Catholic Church is committed – I reaffirm
this again today – to tolerance, respect, friendship and peace between
all peoples, cultures and religions.
In the forty years that have passed since the conciliar Declaration
Nostra Aetate, much progress has been made, in Germany and
throughout the world, towards better and closer relations between Jews
and Christians. Alongside official relationships, due above all to
cooperation between specialists in the biblical sciences, many
friendships have been born.
In this regard, I would mention the various
declarations by the German Episcopal Conference and the charitable work
done by the "Society for Jewish-Christian Cooperation in Cologne", which
since 1945 have enabled the Jewish community to feel once again "at
home" here in Cologne and to establish good relations with the Christian
Yet much still remains to be done. We must come to know one
another much more and much better.
Consequently I would encourage
sincere and trustful dialogue between Jews and Christians, for only in
this way will it be possible to arrive at a shared interpretation of
disputed historical questions, and, above all, to make progress towards
a theological evaluation of the relationship between Judaism and
This dialogue, if it is to be sincere, must not gloss over
or underestimate the existing differences: in those areas in which, due
to our profound convictions in faith, we diverge, and indeed precisely
in those areas, we need to show respect for one another.
Looking to the future
Finally, our gaze should not only be directed to the past, but should
also look forward to the tasks that await us today and tomorrow. Our
rich common heritage and our fraternal and more trusting relations call
upon us to join in giving an ever more harmonious witness and to work
together on the practical level for the defence and promotion of human
rights and the sacredness of human life, for family values, for social
justice and for peace in the world.
The Decalogue (cf. Ex 20; Dt 5) is
for us a shared legacy and commitment. The Ten Commandments are not a
burden, but a sign-post showing the path leading to a successful life.
This is particularly the case for the young people whom I am meeting in
these days and who are so dear to me. My wish is that they may be able
to recognize in the Decalogue a lamp for their steps, a light for their
path (cf. Ps 119:105).
Adults have the responsibility of handing down to
young people the torch of hope that God has given to Jews and to
Christians, so that "never again" will the forces of evil come to power,
and that future generations, with God’s help, may be able to build a
more just and peaceful world, in which all people have equal rights and
are equally at home.
I conclude with the words of Psalm 29, which express both a wish and
a prayer: "May the Lord give strength to his people, may he bless his
people with peace".
May he hear our prayer!