"Vi minnes: refleksjoner over Shoah"

VATICAN CITY, MAR 16, 1998 (VIS) - "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah," published today by the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, is a 14-page document in English, which opens with a Letter dated March 12 by Pope John Paul II to Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy.

The document bears today's date and is signed by Cardinal Cassidy, Bishop Pierre Duprey and Fr. Remi Hoeckman, O.P., respectively president, vice- president and secretary of the commission.

Pope John Paul writes, in part:

"On numerous occasions during my Pontificate I have recalled with a sense of deep sorrow the sufferings of the Jewish people during the Second World War. The crime which has become known as the Shoah remains an indelible stain on the history of the century that is coming to a close.

"As we prepare for the beginning of the Third Millennium of Christianity, the Church is aware that the joy of a Jubilee is above all the joy that is based on the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God and neighbor. Therefore she encourages her sons and daughters to purify their hearts, through repentance of past errors and infidelities. She calls them to place themselves humbly before the Lord and examine themselves on the responsibility which they too have for the evils of our time.

"It is my fervent hope that the document 'We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah' ... will indeed help to heal the wounds of past misunderstandings and injustices."

Following are excerpts from the document:

"I. The tragedy of the Shoah and the duty of remembrance. ... This century has witnessed an unspeakable tragedy, which can never be forgotten: the attempt by the Nazi regime to exterminate the Jewish people, with the consequent killing of millions of Jews. Women and men, old and young, children and infants, for the sole reason of their Jewish origin, were persecuted and deported. Some were killed immediately, while others were degraded, ill-treated, tortured and utterly robbed of their human dignity, and then murdered. ... This was the Shoah.

"Before this terrible genocide, ... no one can remain indifferent, least of all the Church, by reason of her very close bonds of spiritual kinship with the Jewish people and her remembrance of the injustices of the past. ... The common future of Jews and Christians demands that we remember, for 'there is no future without memory'. History itself is 'memoria futuri'."

"II. What we must remember. While bearing their unique witness to the Holy One of Israel and to the Torah, the Jewish people have suffered much at different times and in many places. But the Shoah was certainly the worst suffering of all."

"The very magnitude of the crime raises many questions. ... But such an event cannot be fully measured by the ordinary criteria of historical research alone. It calls for a 'moral and religious memory' and, particularly among Christians, a very serious reflection on what gave rise to it.

"The fact that the Shoah took place in Europe, that is, in countries of long- standing Christian civilization, raises the question of the relation between the Nazi persecution and the attitudes down the centuries of Christians towards the Jews.

III. Relations between Jews and Christians. The history of relations between Jews and Christians is a tormented one. ... In effect, the balance of those relations over two thousand years has been quite negative."

"'In the Christian world - I do not say on the part of the Church as such - erroneous and unjust interpretations of the New Testament regarding the Jewish people and their alleged culpability have circulated for too long, engendering feelings of hostility towards this people'. (Pope John Paul II, October 31, 1997). Such interpretations of the New Testament have been totally and definitively rejected by the Second Vatican Council."

"By the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, Jews generally had achieved an equal standing with other citizens in most States, and a certain number of them held influential positions in society. But in that same historical context, notably in the 19th century, a false and exacerbated nationalism took hold. In a climate of eventful social change, Jews were often accused of exercising an influence disproportionate to their numbers."

"At the same time, theories began to appear which denied the unity of the human race, affirming an original diversity of races. In the 20th century, National Socialism in Germany used these ideas as a pseudo-scientific basis for a distinction between so-called Nordic-Aryan races and supposedly inferior races."

"The Church in Germany replied by condemning racism. Already in February and March 1931 ... (there were) pastoral letters condemning National Socialism, with its idolatry of race and of the State."

"Pope Pius XI too condemned Nazi racism in a solemn way in his Encyclical Letter 'Mit brennender Sorge', which was read in German churches on Passion Sunday 1937, a step which resulted in attacks and sanctions against members of the clergy. Addressing a group of Belgian pilgrims on 6 September 1938, Pius XI asserted: 'Anti-Semitism is unacceptable. Spiritually, we are all Semites'. Pius XII, in his very first Encyclical, 'Summi Pontificatus', of 20 October 1939, warned against theories which denied the unity of the human race and against the deification of the State, all of which he saw as leading to a real 'hour of darkness'.

IV. Nazi anti-Semitism and the Shoah. Thus we cannot ignore the difference which exists between anti-Semitism, based on theories contrary to the constant teaching of the Church on the unity of the human race and on the equal dignity of all races and peoples, and the long-standing sentiments of mistrust and hostility that we call anti-Judaism of which, unfortunately, Christians also have been guilty.

"The National Socialist ideology went even further. ... At the level of theological reflection we cannot ignore the fact that not a few in the Nazi Party not only showed aversion to the idea of divine Providence at work in human affairs, but gave proof of a definite hatred directed at God himself."

"The Shoah was the work of a thoroughly modern neo-pagan regime. Its anti- Semitism had its roots outside of Christianity and, in pursuing its aims, it did not hesitate to oppose the Church and persecute her members also.

"But it may be asked whether the Nazi persecution of the Jews was not made easier by the anti-Jewish prejudices imbedded in some Christian minds and hearts."

"Any response to this question must take into account that we are dealing with the history of people's attitudes and ways of thinking, subject to multiple influences."

"At first the leaders of the Third Reich sought to expel the Jews. Unfortunately, the governments of some Western countries of Christian tradition, including some in North and South America, were more than hesitant to open their borders to the persecuted Jews."

"In the lands where the Nazis undertook mass deportation, ... did Christians give every possible assistance to those being persecuted, and in particular to the persecuted Jews?

"Many did, but others did not. Those who did help to save Jewish lives as much as was in their power, even to the point of placing their own lives in danger, must not be forgotten. During and after the war, Jewish communities and Jewish leaders expressed their thanks for all that had been done for them, including what Pope Pius XII did personally or through his representatives to save hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives. Many Catholic bishops, priests, religious and laity have been honored for this reason by the State of Israel.

"Nevertheless, as Pope John Paul II has recognized, alongside such courageous men and women, the spiritual resistance and concrete action of other Christians was not that which might have been expected from Christ's followers."

"We deeply regret the errors and failures of those sons and daughters of the Church."

"We recall and abide by what Pope John Paul II, addressing the leaders of the Jewish community in Strasbourg in 1988, stated: 'I repeat again with you the strongest condemnation of anti-Semitism and racism, which are opposed to the principles of Christianity'. The Catholic Church therefore repudiates every persecution against a people or human group anywhere, at any time. She absolutely condemns all forms of genocide, as well as the racist ideologies which give rise to them.

"V. Looking together to a common future. Looking to the future of relations between Jews and Christians, in the first place, we appeal to our Catholic brothers and sisters to renew the awareness of the Hebrew roots of their faith. We ask them to keep in mind that Jesus was a descendant of David; that the Virgin Mary and the Apostles belonged to the Jewish people; ..."

"At the end of this Millennium the Catholic Church desires to express her deep sorrow for the failures of her sons and daughters in every age. This is an act of repentance ('teshuva'), since, as members of the Church, we are linked to the sins as well as to the merits of her children. The Church approaches with deep respect and great compassion the experience of extermination, the Shoah, suffered by the Jewish people during World War II.

"We pray that our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people has suffered in our century will lead to a new relationship with the Jewish people. We wish to turn awareness of past sins into a firm resolve to build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Judaism among Christians or anti-Christian sentiment among Jews."

"Finally, we invite all men and women of good will to reflect deeply on the significance of the Shoah. ... The spoiled seeds of anti-Judaism and anti- Semitism must never again be allowed to take root in the human heart."

OP/DOCUMENT SHOAH/CASSIDY                                   VIS 980316 (1640)
av Webmaster publisert 17.03.1998, sist endret 17.03.1998 - 21:07