Bibliographic Update 1993 - 1999
by Eugene J. Fisher
1. International Relations
January 27, 1995 marked the 50th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz. The differing tones of three major statements by the German, Polish and American Bishops conferences, while not contradictory, illustrated the very different experiences of the three Catholic communities during World War II (texts in Origins: A Documentary Service of the Catholic News Service for February 9 and 16, 1995, vol. 24, pp. 563-564 and 585-588). The German Bishops appropriately stressed the guilt of the “unprecedented crime. . .put into action by the National Socialist rulers in Germany” and acknowledged with candor that “Christians did not offer due resistance to racial anti-Semitism. Many times there was failure and guilt among Catholics. Not a few of them got involved in the ideology of National Socialism and remained unmoved in the face of the crimes committed against. . .Jews,” while others “Paved the way to the crimes or even became criminals themselves.”
The Polish and German bishops" conferences had originally planned to make a joint statement on the commemoration, but could not agree on the proper wording. While the German bishops needed to make the articulation of the need for repentance first and central, the Polish bishops, representing a country which was conquered and occupied by the Nazi death machine against its will needed first to articulate the Polish sense of victimhood: “We bow our heads before the infinite suffering which was often accepted in a deep Christian spirit.” Only then could they begin to articulate the deeper suffering of the Jews during the War: “Extermination, called Shoah, has weighed painfully not only in relations between Germans and Jews, but also to a great extent in relations between Jews and Poles, who together, though not to the same degree, were victims of Nazi ideology. . .Seeing the Nazi extermination of Jews, many Poles reacted with heroic courage and sacrifice, risking their lives and that of their families. . .Unfortunately, there were also those who were capable of actions unworthy of being called Christian. . .There were those who remained indifferent to that inconceivable tragedy, (those) who in some way had contributed to the death of Jews. They will forever remain a source of remorse.” While affirming, as a matter of historical fact, the “the creators of Auschwitz were the Nazi Germans, not Poles, and that many Poles shared “a dramatic community of fate” with Jews, the bishops note, “however, it was the Jews who became the victims of the Nazi plan of systematic and total liquidation. . .It is estimated that more than 1 million Jews died in Auschwitz-Birkenau alone. Consequently, even though members of other nations also perished at this camp, nevertheless, Jews consider this camp a symbol of the total extermination of their nation.”
Given the contentious atmosphere surrounding Auschwitz-Birkenau, and how its memory is to be preserved not only for Polish Catholics and Jews but for all humanity, this very clear acknowledgment by the Polish bishops of the symbolic priority of the Jewish memory is in many ways a remarkable and potentially very healing statement on the part of the Polish Episcopate.
The American Catholic statement, issued by Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile as chairman of the Bishops" Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA), took up the themes from a third perspective, recalling with “profound gratitude the tremendous sacrifices made by the generation of American Catholics which defeated Hitler,” but also recalling “with humility and a sense of regret the opportunities that were lost to save lives.” Here, the BCEIA listed the American failure “to bomb the railroad lines which lead to Auschwitz” (though flying daily bombing runs over them!) and the “draconian immigration laws of the period, which kept this country from becoming an asylum for Jews, Catholics and others that it should have been.”
Archbishop Lipscomb carefully distinguishes between “personal guilt,” which is felt by few American Christians who after all “fought the war against Hitler,” and a “sense of responsibility for what fellow members of the community of the baptized did not do to save lives.” “Our spirit in remembering the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz,” he concludes, “ must be one of repentance and resolve to build a world where never again will such evil be possible.”
On February 6, 1995, the governing board of the American Jewish Committee met with the Pope, who told them that “the horrors of the Shoah” must lead to a greater commitment by Christians and Jews to work together for justice in the world and “peace in the Holy Land, which is so dear to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.” The meeting noted the 30th anniversary of Nostra Aetate and both the Pope and AJC president Robert S. Rifkind spoke of the “profound changes” in Catholic-Jewish relations as a result of the Council. Rifkind also raised AJC"s concern about “those who distort the history of the Holocaust” and asked that the Holy See open the archives of its Secretariat of State for responsible research by Jewish and Catholic scholars working together to preserve the historical record. A B"nai B"rith delegation headed by its president, Tommy Baer, raised the same issue in meeting with the Pope on March 10, 1996.
In March of 1995, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago (of blessed memory) traveled to Israel with a group of Jewish leaders. The lecture on “Antisemitism: The Historical Legacy and Continuing Challenge for Christians” that he gave at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on March 23, 1995 has been included in a volume of his addresses on Jewish-Catholic Dialogue entitled A Blessing to Each Other published in 1996 by Liturgy Training Publications of the Archdiocese of Chicago. It is also available in pamphlet form from the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding of Sacred Heart University (5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield, Connecticut 06432-1000), which in 1995 also published a volume of essays edited by Anthony Cernera in honor of Cardinal John O"Connor of New York under the title, Toward Greater Understanding. It contains essays by Cardinals Bernardin, Cassidy, Keeler, Law and O"Connor, and by Chaim Herzog, Elie Wiesel, David Novak, and Rabbis Mordecai Waxman and Walter Wurzburger. It is the first publication of Sacred Heart University Press.
In September of 1995 in France, the publisher of the Bible des Communates chretiennes, SOBICAI-Mediaspaul, announced that it was withdrawing the book from publication. This came after Bishop Thomas of Versailles in February revoked its imprimatur and after the Holy See and the French Bishops" Conference had declared the notes and commentaries attached to the translation (which had been done from an earlier Spanish text) to be inaccurate and antisemitic. While the Spanish version, which was published shortly after the Second Vatican Council, badly needs updating today, its notes do not reflect the blatant antisemitic elements that pervade the French text.
Similarly, in early 1997 a church history text containing antisemitic themes authored by a Catholic priest was published in Italy. Again the local ordinary with the public support of the Holy See"s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews responded by denouncing the text, which was then taken out of circulation by the publisher. In Poland in this period as well an antisemitic sermon was given by a parish priest. The local bishop condemned the sermon and issued a public apology to the Jewish community. In Minneapolis-St. Paul in the U.S., Archbishop Harry Flynn refused to meet with representatives of a pro-life group, Human Life International, when it came out that there was a chapter in a book written by its founder (and still distributed by the organization) in which antisemitic sentiments can be found, and which the author refused to modify. The Archbishop, instead, met with Jewish leaders and issued a statement condemning the antisemitism which he mandated to be read in the Cathedral during the mass celebrated by the group.
Such events illustrate, on the one hand, that the Catholic community of some one billion people around the world is not yet entirely bereft of antisemites. On the other hand, they illustrate as well that the Catholic hierarchy will indeed act definitively to oppose their teachings.
In late September of 1995 a monument was unveiled near the Warsaw Ghetto monument to honor the Polish Catholic organization, Zegota, which was formed to save Jews from the Nazis. One of the founders of Zegota, Poland"s Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, spoke along with local and foreign Jewish and Catholic leaders.
In November 1995, theCatholic Bishops of the Netherlands issued a statement on Catholic-Jewish relations entitled “Living from One and the Same Root,” arguing that the relationship should not be one of “condemnation and or vilification but of respect and modesty.” In December of 1995, the Pope addressed a celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate by the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee, saying: “What you are celebrating is nothing other than the divine mercy which is guiding Christians and Jews to mutual awareness, respect, cooperation and solidarity. The universal openness of Nostra Aetate is anchored in and takes its orientation from a high sense of the absolute singularity of God"s choice of a particular people. . . the Jewish people, this community of faith and custodian of a tradition thousands of years old, is and intimate part of the mystery of revelation and of salvation.”
In April of 1996, the chief rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff, visited the Pope at the Vatican to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Pope"s visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome. They hailed a “new spirit of friendship” between Jews and Catholics.
On September 10-12, 1996, the Centre for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations of the University of Southhamption, England, organized a symposium entitled Tolerance and Intolerance: An International Conference to Mark the Centenary of James Parks" Birth. Sessions discussed not only Parkes seminal contributions to the dialogue but also theories and patterns of tolerance and intolerance in Jewish-Christian relations, and their practical implications for today.
The450th Anniversary of the death of Martin Luther elicited statements from the World Lutheran Federation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America disassociating the Lutheran Church today from the anti-Jewish writings that marred Luther"s later years. The president of the Council of Protestant Churches in Germany, Klaus Engelhardt, in a Brotherhood Week statement in March 1996, warned strongly against any attempts to explain or justify Luther"s anti-Judaism on theological grounds.
In June of 1996, during a visit to Germany, Pope John Paul II beatified two German Catholics who died as a result of their opposition to Nazism. Bernhard Lichtenberg, used the pulpit of the Catholic cathedral of Berlin to denounce time and again the Nazi attacks on the Jews. He died on the way to Dachau.
On February 10-11, 1997 a symposium on Jewish-Catholic relations was held in Jerusalem co-sponsored by the Rabbi Marc H. Tannenbaum Foundation, the Foundation to Advance Interfaith Trust and Harmony (FAITH), the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, and the Israel Jewish Council for Interreligious Relations. The papers presented by Cardinal Edward I. Cassidy, the president of the Holy See"s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, and Rabbi Mark Winer, president of the National Council of Synagogues (USA) were published in Origins (vol. 26, no. 41, pp. 665-674). Other speakers included Judith Banki of the Tannenbaum Foundation, Bishop Alexander Brunett of Helena, Montana, chairman of the Bishops" Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (USA), and Dr. Ron Kronish and Daniel Rossing of Israel.
In August of 1997, Cardinal John O"Connor of New York visited Buenos Aires. In a major speech and in a homily delivered in Spanish in the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity he denounced antisemitism in the strongest terms and added his voice to the Jewish community"s demand to the Argentinian government for a full investigation and justice in the wake of last year"s bombings of Jewish community centers which have killed more than 100 people since 1994. The homily, Rabbi Leon Klenicki of the ADL noted, “was the talk of the city” and will have a very positive impact on Catholic-Jewish relations in Argentina.
At this writing, three major events have been scheduled for September/October 1997 in Rome: (1) An International Symposium on “Good and Evil after Auschwitz” sponsored by SIDIC, the Pontifical Gregorian University and the University of Rome, (2) the meeting of the International Council of Christians and Jews, and (3) a scholars conference on the Church and antisemitism, scheduled as part of the preparations for the Millennium by a commission of the Holy See.
2. Relations in the U.S.
The 15th National Workshop on Christian-Jewish Relations was held in Stamford, Connecticut (USA) on October 27-30, 1996, with over 1000 people attending from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Israel, and, thanks to a large contingent of Sisters of Sion from around the world, from Australia as well. Under the theme, “Seeking God: The Challenge of Being Religious in America,” the program was once again rich and varied, providing opportunities for those involved in the field to update their experiences and understandings as well as an excellent program for “first timers,” including many theology students and educators. Highlights included plenaries on “The Search for Religious Identity” (Margaret O"Brien Steinfels, editor of Commonweal and author Julius Lester of the University of Massachusetts), “Authenticity without Demonization” (Mary Boys, SNJM, of Union Theological Seminary, Neil Gillman of Jewish Theological Seminary, Anthony Saldarini of Boston College, and Paul van Buren, emeritus of Temple University), “the Impact of Religion on Society” (David Saperstien of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and Cecil Murra.1 3 the African Methodist Episcopal Church) and “Religion, Society and State” (Stephen L. Carter of Yale University), and on “Educating with and about the Other” (Sr. Audrey Doetzel, NDS).
In addition, each day was begun with joint reflections of the biblical texts of Romans 9-11 and Leviticus 25, lead by scholars such as Michael Cook of Hebrew Union College and Krister Stendahl, emeritus of Harvard University. As Sr. Marge Boyle, NDS, reported in her account of the Workshop in SIDIC (vol. 30, no. 1, 1997, published in English and French in Rome by the Sisters of Sion), there were over 100 individual workshops dealing with education, theology , dialogue, social action, biblical studies, Israel, church-state relations, anti-Semitism, and even the Internet. For your interest, the National Workshop has an Internet page linked to the Jewish-Christian Relations website (www.jcrelations.net), which I urge all to visit. The site contains documents, essays and bibliographies in both English and German.
The Workshop honored several pioneers of the dialogue with special awards: Frank Brennan (of blessed memory) who founded and published The National Dialogue Newsletter, Sr. Katherine Hargrove, who has been active in the field since 1951 and most recently published Seeds of Reconciliation (1996), Rabbi Leon Klenicki of the Anti-Defamation League, Dr. Franklin Sherman of the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, and Rabbi Walter Wurzburger of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Rabbinical Council of America.
Also in the U.S., the newly-constituted National Council of Synagogues (representing Reform and Conservative Judaism in this country), the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA issued a joint statement calling for a return to civility in public discourse on the eve of the presidential elections. On October 10, 1996, Niagara University sponsored a conference on Jewish-Christian history over the ages featuring Eugene Fisher as keynote speaker. Boston College sponsored a symposium on “Jerusalem and the Holy Land in the American Consciousness,” with Fisher and Michael Neiditch of the Jerusalem Foundation speaking. On November 21, the U.S. Holocaust Museum sponsored a discussion of Polish Catholic-Jewish Relations featuring Rev. John Pawlikowski, OSM, who also chairs the Museum"s Church Relations Committee, which met at the Museum on December 11, 1996. The Fall 1996 issue ofThe Journal of the Religious Education Association contains a report, papers and reflections on a unique Catholic-Jewish Colloquium of educators from both traditions sponsored by the Institute for Christian-Jewish Studies in Baltimore. Write to Rev. Chris Leighton at the Institute (1316 Park Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217) for information on this and their other very useful programs and resources. They also have a link on the jcrelations.net website to their own home page, which is well worth a virtual visit.
On April 14, 1997, Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Rite Churches, in a ceremony in Pittsburgh presented to Rabbi A. James Rudin the first Joseph Award for his lifelong contributions to reconciliation between Christians and Jews. The papal medal struck for the occasion, is believed to be the first ever to be inscribed with Hebrew letters. “The building of human bridges is one of the great success stories of this terrible, bloody century,” Rudin said in accepting the honor. (Text in Origins May 1, 1997, vol. 26, no. 45, pp.742-744.)
On April 15, 1997, the twice-yearly consultation between the National Council of Synagogues (NCS) and the Bishops" Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA), chaired respectively by Rabbi Mordecai Waxman and Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore, met for the first time at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. After the meeting, the group participated in a ceremony sponsored by the Museum to honor the Catholic rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, many of whose names are memorialized in the Museum. Cardinal Keeler addressed the group: “The saving deeds and lives of Catholics that we remember here today represent crucially important moral lights in a period of darkness.
Tragically, the world art large believed what it wanted to believe and did what it wanted to do, which was virtually nothing.. Today we celebrate the memory of some non-Jews--specifically Catholics--who did do something at a time of utmost crisis when most European Catholics either could not, or would not help their neighbors in desperate need. . .We Catholics who are teachers need such models if we are to be able to prepare the next generations of Christians properly for living moral lives in a world that can, as it did in the 1940"s, descend into absolute moral chaos with dizzying rapidity” (text in Origins, May 1, 1977, vol. 26, no. 45, pp. 739-741). The event concluded with a ceremony honoring Pere Jacques Bunel of France, a Carmelite killed by the Nazis for attempting to rescue 4 Jewish children. The ceremony initiated a small temporary exhibit of the museum featuring the story. On March 18, 1997, the NCS and the BCEIA co-sponsored a meeting of leading Catholic and Jewish educators in what is hoped will be the first of a series of such meetings probing how each presents the other in our respective classrooms and whether joint programming, such as is already being done in Los Angeles and Brooklyn/New York is possible on a wider scale.
Facing History and Ourselves is a national educational and teacher training organization begun in 1976 whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice and antisemitism. Over the years they have developed a variety of sound programming and materials for educators. Their address is 16 Hurd Road, Brookline, MA 02146. Their Web address is: www.facing.org. Merrimack College has established a Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations. For information write to Prof. Martin S. Goldman, Merrimack College, 315 Turnpike Street, North Andover, Massachusetts 01845 USA
Christian-Jewish Relations Update 1995-1999
With kind permission of the author, Dr. Eugene J. Fisher, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, National Conference of Catholic Bishops (USA)