Jewish-Catholic Dialogue Must Go On

by Gad Nahshon

ADL's Vatican Newsletter published an interview with Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Jews.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, who has served the Council and Commission as Vice President since June 1, 1999, taking over the Presidency after his appointment as Cardinal by the Pope in the February 21 Concistory in Rome.

A renowned German theologian, who some say might one day succeed Cardinal Ratzinger as the keeper of the faith in the Roman Curia, he worked closely with Hans Kung and Leo Scheffcyzk, as their Assistant at the Tuebingen Theological Faculty in the 1960s, later becoming Professor of Dogmatic Theology and Dean of the Faculty. He was named Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart in 1989, and in 1991 became President of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the German Episcopal Conference, and Vice President of the Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith. In 1994, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (which he had already served as Consultant) named him Co-President of the International Commission for Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue. In 1998 he was named Consultant for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Ratzinger, and the Pontifical Council for Culture, headed by Cardinal Poupard, and this year, for the Congregation of Eastern Churches.

His studies and work reflect his deep theological concerns with ecumenism on one hand, and with Judaism on the other. He holds deep convictions regarding the unique relationship between Jews and Christians, in keeping with the flow of post Vatican II Catholic thought. He is a kind of "renaissance man" with truly catholic (small "c" in this case) interests, being a member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and the European Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has a collection of international "honoris causa" PhD's to add to the two he earned at the Tuebingen Theological Faculty.

In this interview, Cardinal Kasper presents a serenely optimistic account of the present moment in Catholic-Jewish relations, reviewing some of the problems and their solutions, focusing on the highly positive impact and aftermath of Pope John Paul II's visit to Israel. Cardinal Kasper replaced Cardinal Edward I. Cassidy.

In the illuminating interview Cardinal Kasper remarked: "I would say a series of things have happened, and the balance is positive. First of all, I believe the Pope's trip to Israel was of great importance in building bridges with the Jewish people. Today, many Jews in Israel have a different view of the Catholic Church than they had in the past."

"No doubt, the Dominus lesus document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, caused problems and produced a crisis of trust for our Jewish partners. However, I believe that the article written by Cardinal Ratzinger for the Osservatore Romano around Christmas time, helped to overcome this - although Israel's Ambassador to the Holy See, Joseph Lamdan said that there were some difficulties with the end of that article, which says, 'We will pray that /God/ grant also the children of Israel a deeper knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, who is their son and the gift they have made to us. Since we are both awaiting the final redemption, let us pray that the paths we follow may converge.'

"This prayer or hope expresses an eschatological outlook. It is not to be interpreted as an attempt to missionize. I think there cannot be any mission of Catholics towards Jews. The 'nations' who will convert, according to the Gospel, are 'Goyim' not Jews."

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