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US bishops to place memo on antisemitism in parish missals

Christian Jewish Unity

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J-P Mauro - published on 03/23/24

At a time when antisemitism is on the rise in the US, the Catholic bishops are working to confront this prejudice with 'Nostra aetate' as their guide.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is offering a tool to equip Catholics to confront antisemitism. The move comes as Holy Week approaches and at a time when antisemitic sentiment is on the rise in the US

A memo will be included in all church missals and worship aids that is meant to ensure that the Johannine narrative of the Christ’s Passion – that is, the Passion as recorded in the Gospel of John – is not misused to promote antisemitism. 

The Pillar has a passage from the memo, which warns against laying the blame for Christ’s execution on the shoulders of modern Jewish communities. It reads: 

“The Passion narratives are proclaimed in full so that all see vividly the love of Christ for each person. In light of this, the crimes during the Passion of Christ cannot be attributed, in either preaching or catechesis, indiscriminately to all Jews of that time, nor to Jews today. The Jewish people should not be referred to as though rejected or cursed, as if this view followed from Scripture. The Church ever keeps in mind that Jesus, his mother Mary, and the apostles all were Jewish. As the Church has always held, Christ freely suffered his Passion and death because of the sins of all, that all might be saved.”

According to the USCCB, this is not the only move they intend to make. The Office for the Biblical Apostolate and the Subcommittee on Translation of Scripture are working to produce a text to facilitate sensitivity readings of notes in the new translation of the New American Bible and new Biblia in America. 

Additionally the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs is working with the Committees on Catholic Education and Catechesis and Evangelization to better educate on the Church’s teaching regarding Jews and Judaism. The USCCB notes that all Catholics are called to confront antisemitism as part of our discipleship.

To this end, from now until the end of 2025, the USCCB will be working to better assist clergy and ministers in forming Catholics as spiritual brothers and sisters to the Jewish people and allies in the fight against antisemitism.

In an interview with the Pillar, Rebecca Cohen, program and research specialist of the USCCB’s Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, noted that these efforts have been made in response to a growing level of antisemitism in the nation: 

“The initiative was in answer to rising antisemitism here in the U.S., and it is a project beyond just our committee. It came as we got questions from bishops, asking what the conference is doing to address antisemitism.”

Cohen went on to note that one of the most important ways to address antisemitism is by increasing our understanding of Jews and Judaism. She pointed towards Nostra aetate, the official declaration of Vatican II on the relation of the Church and non-Christian religions, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1965. This document has guided much of the USCCB’s work. 

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