Europe

Catholics should not try to convert Jews, Vatican says

General view of St. Peters square, with St. Peters Basilica in background Image copyright AP
Image caption The Vatican now acknowledges the importance of Christianity's Jewish roots

The Vatican has told Catholics that they should not seek to convert Jews and stressed that the two faiths have a "unique" relationship.

It is seen as a new Vatican attempt to distance itself from centuries of Christian-Jewish tension and prejudice.

The document released on Thursday is not a doctrinal text, but a "stimulus for the future", the Vatican says.

It builds on the "Nostra aetate" (In Our Time) document which, 50 years ago, redefined Vatican ties with Judaism.

Nostra aetate rejected the concept of collective Jewish guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

'Our elder brothers'

The new document is called "The Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable" and was written by the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with Jews.

It says "the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Last year Pope Francis met Jewish survivors of the Holocaust on a visit to Jerusalem

Judaism, it points out, "is not to be considered simply as another religion; the Jews are instead our elder brothers".

It says that, in the presence of Jews, Catholics should express their faith "in a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God's Word, and particularly in view of the great tragedy of the Shoah [Holocaust]".

Turning to the vexed question of salvation, the document says: "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".

Jews and Catholics should jointly combat all forms of anti-Semitism, the document says, condemning the Nazi slaughter of Jews in World War Two.

"History teaches us where even the slightest perceptible forms of anti-Semitism can lead: the human tragedy of the Shoah in which two-thirds of European Jewry were annihilated."

It made no direct reference to the medieval Inquisition, when the Catholic Church persecuted Jews and forced them to convert to Christianity.

Cardinal Kurt Koch and Fr Norbert Hofmann of the Vatican Commission presented the document on Thursday, and were joined by two Jewish representatives - Rabbi David Rosen and Dr Ed Kessler.

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