Bishop Affirms Importance of Catholic-Jewish Relations

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs agreed with the Vatican spokesman that derogatory comments about Jews by the head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X were “unacceptable” in a letter to members of the U.S.C.C.B. Catholic-Jewish dialogues.

Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore said in his letter of 15 January that comments by Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the society, who called Jews “the enemies of the church,” were contrary to church teaching.

“I wish to assure you as both colleagues and friends that the Holy See and the U.S.C.C.B. find the statements of Bishop Fellay both false and deeply regrettable. His remarks are not only prejudiced, but also hurtful. Comments that cause pain to our Jewish partners are painful to us as well,” Bishop Madden wrote.

Bishop Fellay’s comments were posted on YouTube on 30 December. They were made during a nearly two-hour talk on 28 December at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg, Ontario.

Bishop Fellay said that Jewish leaders’ support of the Second Vatican Council “shows that Vatican II is their thing, not the church’s.”

The Society of St. Pius X has rejected the Catholic Church reforms that emerged from Vatican II, including the document “Nostra Aetate,” which described Christians and Jews as having a common heritage and a profound spiritual bond and denounced any form of contempt of the Jews.

In his letter, Bishop Madden cited comments by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, who said, “It is absolutely unacceptable, impossible to define Jews as enemies of the church.” Bishop Madden also pointed to the work of Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to extend the teachings of “Nostra Aetate” throughout the Catholic Church and to condemn anti- Semitism.

Bishop Madden also expressed gratitude for recent statements from Jewish agencies and individuals that reaffirmed Catholic statements renouncing centuries old attitudes of anti-Judaism. “The Catholic Church deeply values the friendship of the Jewish people and looks forward to the day when bias against them is eliminated everywhere,” Bishop Madden wrote.

He concluded by thanking the dialogue partners for their ongoing commitment to continue discussions and broaden understanding.

The society’s U.S. district published a press release on its website on 5 January saying Bishop Fellay’s characterization of “enemies” was “a religious concept and refers to any group or religious sect which opposes the mission of the Catholic Church and her efforts to fulfill it: the salvation of souls.

“By referring to the Jews, Bishop Fellay’s comment was aimed at the leaders of Jewish organizations, and not the Jewish people,” the statements aid, adding that any accusations of the society being anti-Semitic were false and an example of “hate speech made in an attempt to silence its message.”

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