Catholic, Jewish leaders prepare new dialogue

VATICAN CITY -- After 40 years of formal Catholic-Jewish dialogue, leaders in the movement feel an obligation to listen to and support their younger members as they face new concerns and prepare to continue the dialogue.

Members of the International Catholic Jewish Liaison Committee met in Paris Feb. 27-March 2. The committee is formed of Catholics named by the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and of the representatives of 11 Jewish organizations, including the World Jewish Congress and the Israel Jewish Council for Interreligious Relations.

In a statement distributed at the Vatican March 3, members of the dialogue said they focused on what they had learned from 40 years of dialogue and what they hope the dialogue can accomplish in the future.

Welcoming delegates, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris said that in the years since the Second Vatican Council, Catholics and Jews have moved from contempt and suspicion to getting to know one another and, finally, to committing themselves to working together to help the world.

"Of course, we must time and time again ensure that anti-Semitism is condemned as a sin against God and humanity, because unfortunately anti-Semitism is not dead," the cardinal said.

Cardinal Vingt-Trois also said that the next step must be an effort to make sure Catholic-Jewish reconciliation is something experienced not just by Catholic and Jewish leaders; "it must penetrate ever more widely to each of our members. The richness of this work and these lessons must be better known in our parishes and schools," he said.

In their statement, members of the dialogue said that before their meeting, they sponsored a three-day conference for young people from both communities "to discuss the challenges of the future and to help expand the dialogue and involve more young people around the world."

Members of the dialogue commission acknowledged "a common religious duty to help relieve the global consequences of poverty, injustice, discrimination and the denial of universal human rights," the statement said.

"Participants were especially sensitive to the call of the younger generation for true freedom and full participation in their societies," it said.

Looking particularly at the protests that spread across North Africa and the Middle East in January and February, Catholics and Jews at the Paris meeting said the pro-democracy protesters were "expressing their thirst for dignity and freedom."

"In many parts of the world, minorities, especially religious minorities, are discriminated against, threatened by unjust restrictions of their religious liberty, and even subjected to persecution and murder," the statement said.

During the dialogue meeting, members "expressed a profound sadness at repeated instances of violence or terrorism 'in the name of God,' including the increased attacks against Christians, and calls for the destruction of the State of Israel," the statement said.

The Catholic and Jewish leaders said they deplore "every act of violence perpetrated in the name of religion as a complete corruption of the very nature of a genuine relationship with God."

The International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee promised to continue meeting, and members said they would "work for a peaceful future for the people in the Middle East region and the world, outreach to Jewish-Christian dialogue groups in Europe and Latin America, collaboration on social and ethical issues, and supporting the next generation of young leaders so they can build on the historic achievements of the last four decades."

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