Jews and Catholics on Respect for Human Life - Final Statement of the Bilateral Commission (2006)

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Bi-lateral Commission of the Delegation of the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel's Delegation for Relations with the Catholic Church

Italia       28/02/2006

At the sixth meeting of this bilateral commission held in Rome, we have addressed the subject of the relationship between human life and technology – conscious of the far reaching advances in medical science and the challenges as well as opportunities that these present.

We affirm the principles of our respective Traditions that God is the Creator and Lord of all life and that human life is sacred precisely because, as the Bible teaches, the human person is created in the Divine Image (cfr. Gen 1:26-27). Because life is a Divine gift to be respected and preserved, we perforce reject the idea of human ownership of life and of the right of any human party to decide its value or extent. Thus we repudiate the concept of active euthanasia (so-called mercy killing) as the illegitimate human arrogation of an exclusive Divine authority to determine the time of a person’s death.

We give thanks to the Creator for the capacities which He has given to humankind to heal and preserve life and for the remarkable achievements facilitated in this regard by contemporary science, medicine and technology. Nevertheless we recognise that these blessed achievements bring with them greater responsibilities, profound ethical challenges and potential dangers.

In this regard we reiterate the teachings of our heritages that all human knowledge and capacities must serve and promote human life and dignity and thus be in harmony with the moral values that emanate from the aforementioned principles. Accordingly there must be limits to the application of science and technology in recognition of the fact that not everything which is technically feasible is ethical.

Respect and care for human life must be a universal moral imperative guaranteed by every civil society and its laws, thereby promoting a culture of life.

While rejecting human assumption of the Divine prerogative to determine the time of death, we affirm the obligation to do the utmost to alleviate human suffering.

We urge medical practitioners and scientists to engage with and be guided by the wisdom of religion in all matters of life and death. Therefore we recommend in such matters, in addition to due consultation with the families concerned, that this always take place with the relevant religious authorities.

The conviction that we share, that life on earth is but one stage in the soul’s existence, must only lead us to a greater respect for the vessel – the human form – in which the soul resides in this world. Accordingly we totally reject the idea that the temporary nature of human existence on earth allows us to instrumentalise it. In this regard we strongly condemn any kind of bloodshed to promote any ideology – especially if this is done in the name of Religion. Such action is nothing less than a desecration of the Divine Name.

Therefore we seek to advance the common good of humanity through promoting respect for God, religion, its symbols, Holy Sites and Houses of Worship. Abuse of any of these must be rejected and condemned.

At the same time such abuses and the current tensions between civilisations demand of us to reach out beyond our own bilateral dialogue which has its unique compelling character. Thus we believe that it is our duty to engage and involve the Muslim world and its leaders in respectful dialogue and cooperation. Furthermore we appeal to world leaders to appreciate the essential potential of the religious dimension to help resolve conflicts and strife and call on them to support interreligious dialogue to this end.

February 28th, 2006 – Shevat 30th, 5766

Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen
(Chairman of the Jewish Delegation)

Jorge Cardinal Mejía
(Chairman of the Catholic Delegation)

Chief Rabbi Ratson Arussi
Chief Rabbi Yossef Azran
Chief Rabbi David Brodman
Chief Rabbi David Rosen
Mr. Oded Wiener
Ambassador Shmuel Hadas

Georges Cardinal Cottier O.P.
Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo
Mons. Pier Francesco Fumagalli
P. Norbert Hofmann S.D.B.

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