Orthodox Rabbis Say Christianity Is God's Plan, Vatican Says Stop Evangelizing Jews

Experts assess letter exchange marking 50th anniversary of famous detente.
Orthodox Rabbis Say Christianity Is God's Plan, Vatican Says Stop Evangelizing Jews
Image: Alessandra Tarantino / AP Images
Rabbi Claudio Epelman and Rabbi David Rosen at Vatican press conference, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015.

Five decades ago, the Roman Catholic Church famously acknowledged the unique relationship between Jews and Christians. In the wake of World War II, the Vatican officially rejected anti-Semitism and a common manifestation—charges of deicide—and affirmed the covenant between God and the Jewish people.

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Nostra Aetate declaration, a group of Orthodox rabbis signed and released a statement this month acknowledging that “Christianity is neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations.”

In separating Jews and Christians, God was not separating enemies but partners with significant theological differences, the rabbis wrote. “Both Jews and Christians have a common covenantal mission to perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Almighty, so that all humanity will call on His name and abominations will be removed from the earth.”

A week later, the Vatican, through its the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, honored the Nostra Aetate anniversary by releasing a statement, saying that Catholics should not evangelize Jews—at least in an organized way.

The back-to-back events weren’t unrelated: Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s international director of interreligious affairs, signed the first document and spoke at the Vatican presentation of the second. [CT previously interviewed Rosen on how Jews and Christians can converse well.]

The Catholic document is, in its own words, "not a magisterial document or doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church, but is a reflection ... intended to be a starting point for further theological thought." It is entitled ...

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