Letter to President of National Conference of Catholic Bishops, U.S.A.

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John Paul II, Pope (Wojtyla, Karol) 1920-2005

Città del Vaticano       08/08/1987

To my dear brother John L. May Archbishop of Saint Louis
President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops

As my second Pastoral Visit to the United States approaches, I wish to express to you my profound gratitude for your kindness in sending me the volume containing the texts of my statements on the subject of Jews and Judaism. This significant undertaking is the result of cooperation between Catholics and Jews in America, which is a further source of satisfaction.

In my pastoral concerns, journeys and meetings and in my teachings during the years of my Pontificate, I have constantly sought to develop and deepen our relationships with the Jews, "our elder brothers in the faith of Abraham", and I therefore encourage and bless not only this initiative but the initiatives of all these who, in fidelity to the directives of the Second Vatican Council and animated by good will and religious hope, foster relationships of mutual esteem and friendship and promote the Jewish-Christian dialogue in the appropriate places and with due theological competence and historical objectivity. The more we try to be faithful in loving obedience to the God of the Covenant, the Creator and Savior, contemplating in prayer his wonderful plan of Redemption and loving our neighbor as ourselves, the deeper will be the roots of our dialogue and the more abundant its results.

With our hearts filled with this unyielding hope, we Christians approach with immense respect the terrifying experience of the extermination, the Shoah, suffered by the Jews during the Second World War, and we seek to grasp its most authentic, specific and universal meaning.

As I said recently in Warsaw, it is precisely by reason of this terrible experience that the Nation of Israel. her sufferings and her holocaust are today before the eyes of the Church, of all peoples and of all nations, as a warning, a witness and a silent cry. Before the vivid memory of the extermination, as recounted to us by the survivors and by all Jews now living, and as it is continually offered for our meditation within the narration of the Pesah Haggadah — as Jewish families are accustomed to do today — it is not permissable for anyone to pass by with indifference. Reflection upon the Shoah shows us to what terrible consequences the lack of faith in God and a contempt for man created in his image can lead. It also impels us to promote the necessary historical and religious studies on this event which concerns the whole of humanity today. In this regard I look forward to positive results from the work of the forthcoming Thirteenth Plenary Session of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee, to be held in Washington precisely on the subject "The Shoah, its Significance and Implications seen from a Historical and Religious Perspective".

There is no doubt that the sufferings endured by the Jews are also for the Catholic Church a motive of sincere sorrow, especially when one thinks of the indifference and sometimes resentment which, in particular historical circumstances, have divided Jews and Christians. Indeed this evokes in us still firmer resolutions to cooperate for justice and true peace.

As I said at Assisi, I wish we could create ever newer opportunities for showing "what God would like the developing history of humanity to be: a fraternal journey in which we accompany one another towards the transcendent goal which he sets for us".

In this spirit of peace and universal fraternal solidarity I am preparing to renew to you and to the beloved Jewish community in the United States the joyful proclamation of peace, the Shalom announced by the Prophets and awaited by the whole world. I express the hope that this peace will well up like a stream of living water from the be ism of Jerusalem and that there may be accomplished that which was foretold by Zechariah: "The Lord shall become king over the whole earth; on that day the Lord shall be the only one, and his name the only one" (Zech 14:9).

And as I look forward to our meeting in your beloved country, I impart to you and to your brother Bishops my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, August 8, 1987

(signed) Joannes Paulus II

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