Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Catholics and Jews call on governments, politicians and religious leaders to ensure full religious freedom in all its expressions, and condemn the growing "sin" of anti-Semitism and anti-Christian persecution. They also call for deeper mutual understanding, and for that purpose encourage the inclusion of Vatican documents on Judaism in the training of priests and rabbis, this according to a joint communiqué issued today in the Vatican at the end of the 22nd meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee, held in Madrid.
The press release begins by stating, "As Catholics and Jews we strive to build a world in which human rights are recognized and respected and where all peoples and societies can flourish in peace and freedom. We commit ourselves to strengthen our collaboration in the pursuit of an ever more just and equitable distribution of resources, so that all may benefit from advances in science, medicine, education and economic development. We see ourselves as partners in healing our created world so that it may reflect ever more brightly the original biblical vision: 'And God saw all that God had made, and behold it was very good' (Gen, 1:31)."
Chaired by Betty Ehrenberg, president of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, the meeting "examined the current rise of anti-Semitism, the growing phenomenon of the persecution of Christians in various parts of the world, and threats to religious freedom in many societies. In light of our shared religious ideals, we examined the real difficulties facing our religious traditions today, including violence, terrorism, extremism, discrimination, and poverty. We are deeply saddened to see God's name desecrated by evil couched in religious terms."
As for religious freedom, the statement goes on to say, "Encouraged in our work by Pope Francis' expressions of his concern for the universal welfare of all, particularly the poor and the oppressed, we share the belief in the God-given dignity of every individual. This requires that each person be accorded full freedom of conscience and freedom of religious expression individually and institutionally, privately and publicly. We deplore the abuse of religion, the use of religion for political ends. Both Jews and Catholics condemn persecution on religious grounds."
Hence, "We call on political leaders and governments, on individuals, and on religious leaders and institutions to act to ensure the physical safety and legal protection of all who exercise the fundamental right to religious freedom; to protect the right to change or leave one's religious belief; to protect the right to manifest one's religious beliefs; to educate one's children in accordance with these beliefs. Among the religious claims under attack today that fall within the right to be protected are the right to religious slaughter, male circumcision, and the use and display of religious symbols in public."
With the persecution of Christians on the rise, the ILC calls on "the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and IJCIC to work together on situations involving the persecution of Christian minorities worldwide as they arise; to call attention to these problems and to support efforts to guarantee full citizenship to all citizens regardless of religious or ethnic identity in the Middle East and beyond. Further, we encourage efforts to promote the well-being of minority Christian and Jewish communities throughout the Middle East.
With regards to anti-Semitism, "As Pope Francis has repeatedly said, 'a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite'. [Thus,] "We encourage all religious leaders to continue to be a strong voice against this sin. The celebration of the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate in 2015 is a privileged moment in which to reaffirm its condemnation of anti-Semitism. We urge that anti-Semitic teachings be eliminated from preaching and textbooks everywhere in the world. Similarly, any expression of anti-Christian sentiment is equally unacceptable."