International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
PARIS – A top-level Vatican- Jewish conference in Paris this week marked the
fortieth anniversary of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee
(ILC), the official interreligious organism created by the Second Vatican
Entrenched in historic memories of tragic as well as glad
moments, the conference commemorated the Holocaust but also celebrated
achievements in terms of friendship, education and hopes for the future by
hosting a Young Leadership group.
The event also provided a boat trip on
the Seine River complete with a kosher dinner and spiritual leaders of both
faiths joyfully dancing to klezmer music.
Current events in the
Mediterranean and Islamic world, however, erupted into discussions at the final
meeting with the tragic news – announced by Cardinal Jean- Louis Tauran,
president of the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue – of the murder
of Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti.
“He was a
Christian, a man who remained committed to his belief in dialogue despite his
knowledge that his life was in danger” said a visibly upset Cardinal Tauran. The
Vatican later issued a statement condemning “this unspeakable act of violence,”
calling for all to “realize the dramatic urgency for the defense of religious
liberty, and of Christians subject to violence and
Participants agreed that the upsurge of “religious” hatred
plus reigning uncertainty regarding the future of the Middle East called for
further strengthening of the alliance between Christians, Jews and moderate
Muslims, especially via examples of interreligious cooperation on social and
The ILC’s joint final declaration expressed “profound
sadness at repeated instances of violence or terrorism ‘in the name of God’
including increased attacks against Christians, and the calls for the
destruction of the State of Israel,” and it deplored “every act of violence
perpetrated in the name of religion.”
News of the Pakistani minister’s
murder came immediately following a working session on “religious communities in
the Middle East” with lively participation by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
H.B. Fouad Twal, the Francescan Custos Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and
representatives of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and Foreign Ministry, among
Pleas for help in strengthening Palestinian Christian
institutions “for the benefit of all” were heard, while some delegates lamented
the “disproportionate” dearth of media attention to the plight of Christian
minorities in the Middle East.
The ILC – composed of Vatican officials
and Catholic clergy and scholars on one side, and the International Jewish
Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) representing the world’s
major Jewish organizations on the other – was created in 1971 to apply and
develop the principles of “Nostra Aetate.” This 1965 Vatican II document aimed
at permanently changing the course of a 2,000-year history of Catholic
Contemporary dialogue between Catholics and Jews is based
on this document, which denounced all forms of anti-Semitism and particularly
the “deicide” myth that stereotyped the Jewish people as
The publication of Pope Benedict XVI’s second book, Jesus
of Nazareth, was also announced during the conference.
This book confirms
the Pope’s theological and historical considerations regarding the falsehood of
past assertions of Jewish collective responsibility for the death of
The ILC conference was cochaired by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president
of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews and Rabbi Richard
Marker, chairman of IJCIC.
IJCIC’s 30 Jewish delegates represented 11
Jewish secular and rabbinical organizations plus observers from the Israeli
government, while the 30 Catholics included highest Curia officials such as
Cardinals Koch, Tauran and Turkson – who respectively head the Vatican’s
Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, its Council for Interreligious
Dialogue and its Council for Justice and Peace – as well as other Vatican
officials, scholars and leading members of the French Catholic
On opening night, the president of the French Catholic Bishops
Conference, Cardinal Andre Vingt Trois recalled the contributions of Jules
Isaac, Jacques Maritain, Cardinal Lustiger and others.
The archbishop of
Lyons, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, and Cardinal Kurt Koch delivered moving
speeches at the sites of the Drancy deportation camp and at a tree-planting
ceremony at the Raincy Jewish Center in memory of Ilan Halimi, a French Jewish
“victim of contemporary anti- Semitism” who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered
by a Paris gang.
The program was poignantly moderated by Rev. Patrick
Debois, renowned for his pioneering work in recent discoveries of mass murder
sites in Belarus, Poland, Ukraine and other areas of Europe, digging out and
providing graves for over a million Jews murdered by Nazis.
speeches on the past, present and future of Catholic-Jewish relations worldwide
were delivered by the American Jewish Committee’s present and past directors for
International Interreligious Relations, Rabbis David Rosen and Jim Rudin; Rabbi
David Sandmel; Interreligious Coordination Council in Israel President Deborah
Weissman; the head of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions
(CRIF) Richard Prasquier; Rev. Lawrence Frizzell; Monsignor William
Murphy; the Francescan Custos Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa; Monsignor Pier
Francesco Fumagalli; and Dr. Christian Rutishauser.