The Vatican issued an unprecedented declaration that the Jewish people are part of God’s salvation without explicitly confessing Jesus as their savior, in a document that includes other changes in Catholic Church teachings related to Christian-Jewish relations.
Last week, the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews presented the “A Reflection on Theological Questions Pertaining to Catholic-Jewish Relations” document during a press conference at the Vatican to mark the 50th anniversary of the “Nostra Aetate” declaration, which was another watershed moment in Jewish-Christian ties.
Even though Catholics believe that there is only one path to salvation, the new document states that “it does not in any way follow that the Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God.”
“That the Jews are participants in God’s salvation is theologically unquestionable, but how that can be possible without confessing Christ explicitly is, and remains, an unfathomable divine mystery,” the document says.
According to the document, Jews are Catholics’ “elder brothers” and “fathers in faith.” Catholics, it states, should reject institutional activities that try to convert Jews, but can “in a humble and sensitive manner” bear witness “to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews.”
Rabbi David Rosen—the American Jewish Committee’s international director of interreligious affairs—said that while Nostra Aetate “revolutionized Catholic teachings about Jews and Judaism,” the new “Reflection on Theological Questions” document “clearly repudiates replacement or supersessionist theology, and expresses an increasing appreciation and respect for Jewish self-understanding, reflected in recognizing the place of Torah in the life of the Jewish people.”
Rosen, however, expressed disappointment that the new document fails to address “the centrality that the Land of Israel plays in the historic and contemporary religious life of the Jewish people.”
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