Città del Vaticano 14/05/2008Mr Oded Wiener
Director-General of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel
80 Yirmiyahu Street
P.O. Box 36016
I write with reference to the Statement issued by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in response to the publication of the Note of 4 February 2008, altering the Oremus et pro Iudaeis prayer in the 1962 edition of the Missale Romanum.
In this regard, I would point out that – by means of the "Communiqué of the Secretariat of State" which appeared in the daily edition of L'Osservatore Romano on 5 April 2008, and subsequently in the weekly language editions of the same publication – the Holy See has clearly emphasized the Catholic Church's firm commitment, especially in the wake of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, to promote and develop relations with the Jews through dialogue marked by profound respect, sincere esteem and cordial friendship. This commitment remains unchanged, especially in view of the spiritual links that exist between Jews and Christians.
As you have observed, particular prominence has also been given to a substantial and detailed article on the subject by Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism. This article appeared on the front page of L'Osservatore Romano on 10 April 2008, as a sign of the importance attributed to the text and the fact that what it says about the new version of the Prayer for the Jews in the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal is commonly held. Among other things, the Cardinal emphasized that a sincere dialogue between Jews and Christians is possible, on the one hand, on the basis of our common faith in the one God, Creator of heaven and earth, and in the promises made to Abraham, but on the other hand, through respectfully acknowledging the fundamental difference over faith in Jesus as Christ and Redeemer of all mankind. As Cardinal Kasper clearly explains, the new Oremus et pro Iudaeis is not intended to promote proselytism towards the Jews and it opens up an eschatological perspective. Christians, however, cannot but bear witness to their faith, in full and total respect for the freedom of others, and this leads them also to pray that all will come to recognize Christ.
Likewise, on his recent visit to the United States of America, the Holy Father gave a number of indications of his sentiments towards the Jews. Indeed, after meeting the representatives of various religions, the Pope particularly wanted to receive a group of Jewish religious leaders in order to hand over to them a special Message on the occasion of the great feast of Pesah, devoted to celebrating the great marvels that Almighty God has worked for his people.
In New York, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI visited a synagogue in order to meet personally a Jewish community whose Rabbi was a survivor from the Nazi extermination camps. He wanted to manifest his sympathy, affection and closeness to the Jewish people, and to demonstrate, through a tangible and special gesture, the Holy See's commitment to respectful and loving dialogue, which leads to ever deeper relations of friendship and understanding.
In the hope that this letter may serve to dispel any remaining doubt on the part of the Chief Rabbinate over the Catholic Church's stance towards the Jewish people and over the intentions behind the alteration of the Oremus et pro Iudaeis of the 1962 Missale Romanum, I remain
Tarcisio Card. Bertone
Secretary of State
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