Intervention at a Plenary Session of the Synod of Bishops on Reconciliation

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Roger Cardinal Etchegaray of Marseilles

Italia       04/10/1984

In the course of this Synod, my thoughts are turning especially towards the Jewish people because it is certainly this people amongst all peoples which must be the first benefichi,' of the double mission of reconciliation and of penitente from the Church in a strictly religious way, because of the original. bond which unites Judaism and Christianity.

Our Mission of Reconciliation with the Jewish People
We already read in Isaiah 19:25 this extraordinary promise of the Lord:
"Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage".

And we see this prophecy accomplished beyond hope, when St. Paul gives to the Ephesians the most spectacular sign of reconciliation which is the Christ himself.
"... that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, (That is, Jews and Gentiles.) so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross..."
Eph. 2:15

The Pauline image in the Epistle to the Romans (11:16-24) of the true olive which is Israel on which have been grafted the branches of the wild olive, which are the pagans, allows us to grasp better the privileged nature of our relations with Judaism.
“Do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you". (Rom. 11:18)

We have to admit that we have forgotten this Jewish root, which remains holy,
“For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable". Rom. 11:29

The great, nay the inevitable question which is put to the Church is that of the permanent vocation of the Jewish people, of its significance for Christians themselves. It is not enough to discover the riches of our common patrimony. Link by little, following the Second Vatican Council, the Church, without losing anything of its originality, is becoming aware that it is all the more flourishing in proportion as it lives from its Jewish root. The perpetuity of the Jewish people does not only carry, for the Church, a problem about external relations which need improving, but an internal problem which touches on its own definition.
Is not this connection, which can only be lived in a peaceful tension, one of the elements of the dynamism of the history of salvation? As in the parable, it recalls that neither of the two sons can gain possession of the entire inheritance; each one is for the other, without jealousy, a witness to the gratuitousness of the Father's mercy. It is also a demanding emulation between the one who awaits a Messiah to come and the one who awaits his return. Franz Rosenzweig, after quoting the Midrash which says:
"At the death of a Jew, he will only be asked one question: did you hope for redemption?"

used to add:
"All other questions are for you Christians. From now until then let us prepare ourselves together in faithfulness to appear before the heavenly Judge!"

Such perspectives are somewhat unfamiliar to our minds, even to our ecclesiology. But it is there, h seems to me, that WC must advance on a level of exegesis which is difficult to explore. If not, this Judeo-Christian dialogue will remain superficial and full of mental reservations. In proportion as Judaism remains exterior to our history of salvation, we shall be at the mercy of antisemitic reflexes. We must also consider the break between Israel and the Church as the first schism, the "prototype of schims" (Claude Tresmontant) in the heart of the people of God.

Our Mission of Penitence for our Attitude towards the Jewish People
After defining the limits of our mission of reconciliation with the Jewish people, we must also take seriously our mission of penitence, of repentance for our secular attitude in its regard. No opportunist calculation, no risk of political backlash can force us to contest from ourselves this May of justice which, if rightly taken up, must, on the contrary, help us to be in solidarity with all those who come from the same affiliation with Abraham. As the Bishops of a city which contains an important equal number of Jews and Moslems (80,000 of each in a port of one million inhabitants), I can bear witness that both live together in a good understanding and that with the two communities I enjoy good human and pastoral relations.
Let us learn how to ask forgiveness of the Lord and of our brothers who have so often been overwhelmed by the “teaching of contempt" (Jules Isaac) and plunged into the horrors of the Holocaust. Let us set to work so that all may be repaired that must be repaired.
Let us remember the prophets and psalmists, and all the poor of the Lord who, in the long succession of generations, end in Mary, the Daughter of Sion.
But let us remember also their present descendants today, of those who by their fleshly and spiritual understanding of Scripture, by their rejection of idols and so often by their martyrdom, give support to our own faith in the thrice-holy God.
May we, together with God, become a consolation for the Israel of God, his "firstborn son" and, by our fidelity, may we obtain the grate to hasten the day of their plenitude and out own, which will be like "life from the dead" Rom. 11:15.
And you yourselves, brothers and sisters who are listening to me here, forgive me for taking you so fax and with so mach boldness into the "mystery of Israel glimpsed by a Jew who became the Apostle of the Gentiles.
"O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! . For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen". (Rom. 11:33,36)

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