Catholic-Jewish Dialogue

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Catholic and Jewish leaders denounced persecution and violence against religious minorities and expressed support for pro-democracy movements across North Africa and the Middle East.

The comments came in a statement by the International Catholic Jewish Liaison Committee after a four-day meeting in Paris. The Vatican published the statement March 3, one day after a Catholic government minister in Pakistan was assassinated, apparently by Islamic extremists.

“In many parts of the world, minorities, especially religious minorities, are discriminated against, threatened by unjust restrictions of their religious liberty, and even subjected to persecution and murder,” the statement said.

Participants expressed “a profound sadness at repeated instances of violence or terrorism ‘in the name of God,’ including the increased attacks against Christians, and calls for the destruction of the State of Israel,” it said.

The Catholic and Jewish leaders said they deplored “every act of violence perpetrated in the name of religion as a complete corruption of the very nature of a genuine relationship with God.”

As for the unrest that has spread across North Africa and parts of the Middle East, the participants said that “millions of human beings are expressing their thirst for dignity and freedom.”

The committee’s meeting in Paris Feb. 27-March 2 reflected on 40 years of formal Catholic-Jewish dialogue. The committee is formed of Catholics named by the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews and of the representatives of 11 Jewish organizations, including the World Jewish Congress and the Israel Jewish Council for Interreligious Relations.

Dialogue participants said they felt an obligation to listen to and support their younger members as they face new concerns and prepare to continue the dialogue. Before the meeting, a three-day conference was held for young Catholics and Jews to discuss the challenges of the future and help expand the dialogue to involve more young people around the world.

Members of the dialogue commission acknowledged “a common religious duty to help relieve the global consequences of poverty, injustice, discrimination and the denial of universal human rights,” the statement said.

“Participants were especially sensitive to the call of the younger generation for true freedom and full participation in their societies,” it said.

Welcoming delegates, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris said that in the years since the Second Vatican Council, Catholics and Jews have moved from contempt and suspicion to getting to know one another and, finally, to committing themselves to working together to help the world.

“Of course, we must time and time again ensure that anti-Semitism is condemned as a sin against God and humanity, because unfortunately anti-Semitism is not dead,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Vingt-Trois also said that the next step must be an effort to make sure Catholic-Jewish reconciliation is something experienced not just by Catholic and Jewish leaders.

“It must penetrate ever more widely to each of our members. The richness of this work and these lessons must be better known in our parishes and schools,” he said.

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