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D. Vincent Twomey
Are the recent attacks
on the Pope justified?

Jahr der Priester

Achim Buckenmaier "Haarsträubend" – die Schwierigkeiten mit dem Brief des Papstes an die Priester

Erste Benediktakademie

20.−23.September 2010, St.Virgil, Salzburg.

Zur ökumenische Initiative von Papst Benedikt XVI.

Stephan Otto Horn         
Der Papst hält den Kurs des Konzils. Kritische Beobachtungen zu
Peter Hünermanns "Excommunicatio-Communicatio"

Dr. Michael Hofmann
Zur Aufhebung der Exkommunikation der vier Bischöfe der Piusbruderschaft
Statement

Zum Papstbesuch im Heiligen Land.

Joseph Ratzinger Papst Benedikt XVI.          
Das Erbe Abrahams

Joseph Ratzinger Pope Benedict XVI.
The Heritage of
Abraham

Joseph Ratzinger Papst Benedikt XVI.
Israel, die Kirche und die Welt

Die Schuld der Kirche

Joseph Ratzinger Pope Benedict XVI.

The Heritage of Abraham

At Christmas we exchange presents to bring each other joy and so to participate in the joy announced to the shepherds by the choir of angels; we thereby remember the gift par excellence which God made to mankind when he gave us his Son Jesus Christ. This has been prepared by God in the course of a long history during which – as St. Irenaeus says – God dwelt in man in order to accustom man to perceive God and to accustom God to dwell in man.

Thanks to our Jewish brothers
This history begins with the faith of Abraham, father of all faithful, father also of the faith of the Christians and by faith, also our father.
This history continues in the blessing for the Patriarchs, in the revelation to Moses, and in Israel’s Exodus to the Promised Land. A new stage opens up with the promise of a kingship without end to David and his descendants. The prophets for their part interpret history, call the people to repent and to change their ways, and thus prepare the hearts of men to receive the supreme gift.
Thus Abraham, the father of the People of Israel, father of the faith, is the root of the blessing, by whom “all the clans of the earth will bless themselves” (Gen. 12:3). It is therefore the assignment of the chosen People to give its God, the one and true God, to all other peoples, and in fact we Christians are heirs to their faith in the one God.
Our thanks are therefore due to our Jewish brothers who, notwithstanding the difficulties of their history, have to this day preserved the faith in this God and who give testimony of him before other peoples who “live in darkness and the shadow dark as death” (Lk. 1:79) without any knowledge of the only God.

Israel and the Church are inseparable
The God of the Bible of the Jews, which – together with the New Testament – is also the Bible of the Christians, is sometimes of an infinite tenderness and at other times of a severity that instills fear; this God is also the God of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. The Church of the second century had to resist the rejection of this God by the Gnostics, and above all by Marcion who placed a demiurgic creator God, the originator of the Old Testament, against the God of the New Testament; the Church, however, has always held firmly to the faith in the one and only God, creator of the world and originator of both Testaments.
The knowledge of God in the New Testament which culminates in St. John’s definition “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:16) does not contradict the past, but rather sums up the whole history of salvation which had Israel as its initial protagonist. Therefore the voices of Moses and the Prophets have been heard in the liturgy of the Church from the beginnings until today. Israel’s Book of Psalms is also the great prayer book of the Church. Accordingly, the early Church did not see herself in opposition to Israel, but in all simplicity believed herself to be its legitimate continuation.
The splendid image in Revelation, chapter 12, of a woman robed with the sun, and on her head a crown of twelve stars, pregnant, and suffering in labour, is Israel which gives birth to him, who “with an iron sceptre shall rule” all nations (Ps. 2:9); and yet this woman changes into the new Israel, the mother of new peoples, and is personified in Mary, the mother of Jesus. This unification of three meanings – Israel, Mary, Church – shows how, for the faith of the Christians, Israel and the Church have always been, and still are, inseparable.

A new vision of the relationship between Israel and the Church
It is well known that every birth is difficult. Certainly from the very beginning the relationship between the nascent Church and Israel was often characterized by conflicts. The Church was considered by her mother to be a degenerate daughter, whereas the Christians considered the mother to be blind and obstinate. In the course of Christianity’s history the already difficult relations worsened even further, in many instances they were the origin of outright anti-Jewish attitudes that led to deplorable acts of violence in history. Even though the last abhorrent experience of the Shoah was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian ideology which intended to strike the Christian faith at its Abrahamitic root, in the people of Israel, it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient  resistance, on the part of Christians to this atrocity, is explained by the anti-Jewish heritage present in the souls of not a few Christians.
Perhaps because of the very drama of this last tragedy a new vision of the relationship between the Church and Israel was born, a sincere will to overcome any sort of anti­Judaism and to initiate a constructive dialogue of mutual knowledge and reconciliation. Such a dialogue, in order to be fruitful, must begin with a prayer to our God that he may grant above all to us Christians greater esteem and love of this people, the Israelites, “who were adopted as sons; the glory was theirs and the covenants; to them were given the Law and the worship of God and the promises. To them belong the fathers and out of them, so far as physical descent is concerned, came Christ who is above all, God, blessed for ever. Amen” (Rm. 9:4–5). This was not only so in the past but still is in the present “because the gifts and the choices God has made are irrevocable” (Rm. 11:29). We will likewise pray that he may also grant to the sons of Israel greater understanding of Jesus of Nazareth, their son and the gift they gave to us. As we both expect eschatological redemption let us pray that our paths proceed on converging lines.

The faith of Israel – the foundation of our faith
It is obvious that the dialogue between us Christians and the Jews takes place on a different level in contrast to that with the other religions. The faith which is testified in the Bible of the Jews, the Old Testament of the Christians, is not another religion for us, but the foundation of our own faith. That is why the Christians read and study – and nowadays they do so more and more often  in collaboration with their Jewish brothers – these books of the Holy Scriptures with such great attention and as part of their same inheritance. It is true that also Islam considers itself to be a son of Abraham and that it inherited from Israel and the Christians the same God, but  Islam goes a different road which requires different criteria for the dialogue.
Returning to the exchange of Christmas presents at the beginning of this meditation, we must recognize first of all that all that we have and do is a gift of God, received with the help of humble and sincere prayer; a gift which has to be shared among different ethnic groups, different religions in search of a deeper understanding of the divine mystery, among nations seeking peace and peoples willing to establish a society governed by justice and love. This is the program which has been laid out by Vatican II for the Church of the  future. And we Catholics pray to the Lord that he may help us persevere on this road.  

The text of this meditation was first published on December 29th, 2000 the week after Christmas, in the “Osservatore Romano”. The article was then translated into German by Dr. Titus Lenherr, to appear in the publication “Heute in Kirche und Welt”, by kind permission of the author and the “Osservatore Romano”.

 

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