ROME (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI marked the 40th anniversary of a landmark Vatican document on relations with Jews by calling Thursday for a renewed commitment for Catholics and Jews to deepen their bonds and work for the good of all humanity.

Benedict issued a message that was read during a commemoration of the “Nostra Aetate” document of the Second Vatican Council, in which the Catholic Church deplored anti-Semitism and repudiated the “deicide” charge that blamed Jews as a people for Christ’s death.

Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo di Segni, told The Associated Press that he had refused to attend the ceremony because of the presence of one of the keynote speakers, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, a Jewish convert to Catholicism.

“It’s not a protest but an invitation to reflect on the meaning of dialogue” between religions, Di Segni said in a telephone interview.

“What is dialogue? If it means losing one’s identity and crossing over to the other side, then it’s not dialogue,” he said.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, who hosted the event, said he did not want to comment on the absence of Di Segni and other European rabbis at the ceremony, saying only that he had received a letter from Di Segni and “he didn’t mention Cardinal Lustiger.”

The German-born Benedict, who attended the 1962-65 Vatican meeting as a young theologian, praised the document for having laid the foundations for a new relationship between Catholics and Jews.

“On this anniversary … we need to renew our commitment to the work that yet remains to be done,” he said. “The Jewish-Christian dialogue must continue to enrich and deepen the bonds of friendship which have developed, while preaching and catechis must be committed to ensuring that our mutual relations are presented in the light of the principles set forth by the council.”

He said that in the future, he hoped that theological dialogue as well as everyday contacts between Christians and Jews would offer a “shared witness” to the promotion of human dignity, the sanctity of life, and the need to build a world of justice and peace.

Rabbi David Rosen, who helped negotiate the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel, told the commemoration ceremony that “Nostra Aetate,” which was issued following the Holocaust, had had “truly revolutionary” implications.

“With the promulgation of this declaration, a people – formerly viewed at best as a fossil but more often as cursed and condemned to wander and suffer – was now officially portrayed as beloved by God and somehow very much still part of the divine plan for humankind,” he said.

But he said both Catholics and Jews still needed to fully comprehend its implications, and said there were still key theological issues that remain to be worked out – including whether the Catholic Church will relinquish the “invitation to conversion” to Christianity of the Jews.

“Arguably there is no other issue that remains a bone of theological contention within the church in relation to the Jewish people as this matter,” said Rosen, who is president of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, which represents world Jewry in relations with other world religions.

Kasper, who is responsible for the Vatican’s relations with the Jews, said “Nostra Aetate” was just “the beginning of the beginning of the process of reconciliation and peace.”

“Many historic and theological works need to be further encouraged and developed,” he said. He said there were only “fragments” of a Christian theology of Judaism, and that he awaited a Jewish theology of Christianity.



Associated Press Writer Ariel David contributed to this report.

AP-ES-10-27-05 1847EDT


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