Catholic-Jewish Relations: Unresolved Issues

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Despite the enormous progress made since 1965, many problems still exist in the relationship between Catholics and Jews.  Even as the relationship has matured and improved, many issues remain unresolved, old animosities sometimes rise to the surface, and world events sometimes serve to point out how far the relationship has to go.

Among these outstanding issues are:

The controversy surrounding the actions of Pope Pius XII during World War II and The Holocaust. Many Jews continue to believe that Pope Pius was insensitive to the calamity faced by European Jewry and did little to help. The Church’s advancing of the cause of sainthood for Pope Pius is particularly offensive to many Jews.

The continuing existence of passion plays and their depiction of Jews in the death of Jesus. While major improvements have been introduced into the Passion Play at Oberammergau in Germany, passion plays continue to be held throughout the world every year, sometimes fanning flames of anti-Semitism in local populations. A 2004 major motion picture, The Passion of the Christ, brought the issue of passion plays to a general audience throughout the world and sparked significant controversy.

The political, social, and religious tension in the Middle East have strained relations between Jews and Christians in that region, and the Christian population in the area continues to decline.

The 1998 canonization of Edith Stein, a German Jewish philosopher who converted to Catholicism and became a nun, Sister Teresia Benedicta, and died at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Many Jews consider her canonization to be a sign of disrespect.

The 2000 Vatican-issued statement entitled Dominus Iesus, in which the Church sought to shed further light on the Church’s relationship with other faiths.  To some Jews, Dominus Iesus was further evidence of the Church’s historic sense of superiority and intolerance.

These controversies, and others not outlined here, may continue to be sources of tension as the relationship between Catholics and Jews matures in the years ahead.