Sister Rose and the Vatican Synod

In 1986, I was proud to play a very small part in the completion of the documentary research survey report by Sister Rose Thering entitled Jews, Judaism & Catholic Education. Sister Rose had prepared this work for the twentieth anniversary of the 1965 Promulgation of Vatican II Document Nostra Aetate. Co-published by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai  B'rith, the American Jewish Committee, and Seton Hall University, the survey "sought to determine what effect, if any, the [1965 Conciliar Statement on Catholics' Relationship to Jews and Judaism, the 1974 Roman Catholic Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementation of the 1965 Vatican II Document, and the 1975 U.S. Bishops' Statement on the Jews] had on [Catholic] curricula, teaching methods and materials, ecumenical programs and faculties."

The 1974 Roman Catholic Suggestions and Guidelines stated that

Christians must therefore strive to acquire a better knowledge of the basic components of the religious tradition of Judaism; they must strive to learn by what essential traits Jews define themselves in the light of their own religious experience.

Sister Rose found that "seminaries who responded to [her] questionnaire [saw] the great need for implementation of the teaching of the aforementioned documents.  As a result of the research survey, respondents stated that they "now had a more profound understanding and a new appreciation of contemporary Judaism."

When it came to the Diocesan/Archdiocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Commissions, Sister Rose's findings "demonstrated that some work was being done in Catholic-Jewish concerns. That much more needs to be done is evident[, however,] from the responses."  At that time, Sister Rose recommended that "courses related to Jews, Judaism, the Holocaust and the State of Israel" be implemented in Catholic high schools.

Most importantly, Sister Rose ardently believed that to those "working in the area of Christian-Jewish encounters this means that Christians must come to an understanding of Torah, People, and Land, three very important components of Judaism." And "lastly, the 1985 document from the Vatican Commission, 'Notes,' states that:

The history of Israel did not end in 70 A.D. It continued ... which allowed Israel to carry to the whole world a witness, often heroic of its fidelity to the one God ... while preserving the memory of the Land of their forefathers at the heart of their hope.  Christians must understand this [Jewish] attachment to the Land.

I am glad that Sister Rose is no longer here.

For she would weep at the latest Vatican synod which calls for an end to Israel's so-called occupation. Lisa Palmieri-Billig, a Jerusalem Post correspondent, writes that "[b]ishops from the Middle East who were summoned by Rome by the pope demanded on October 23, 2010 that Israel accept UN resolutions calling for an end to its 'occupation' of Arab lands."

In Sister Rose's seminal work, she quotes the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, who at the time explained that

[i]n dialogue with Christians, Jews have explained that they do not consider themselves as a church, a sect, or a denomination, as is the case among Christian communities, but rather as a peoplehood that is not solely racial, ethnic or religious, but in a sense a composite of all these.  It is for such reasons that an overwhelming majority of Jews see themselves bound in one way or another to the land of Israel.  Most Jews see this tie to the land as essential to their Jewishness.  Whatever difficulties Christians may experience in sharing this view they should strive to understand this link between land and people which Jews have expressed in their writings and worship throughout two millennia as a longing for the homeland, holy Zion.  Appreciation of this link is not to give assent to any particular religious interpretation of this bond.  Nor is this affirmation meant to deny the legitimate rights of other parties in the region, or to adopt any political stance in the controversies over the Middle East, which lie beyond the purview of this statement.

But now in October 2010, Monsignor Cyril Salim Bustros, Greek Melkite archbishop of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Boston, Massachusetts has stated that "[t]he Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians, to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands." Furthermore, Bustros said that "[w]e Christians cannot speak of the 'promised land' as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people.  This promise was nullified by Christ[.]" And finally, Bustros affirms that "[t]he Palestinian refugees will eventually come back and this problem will have to be solved."

In essence, these words contradict "the Second Vatican Council teaching and Pope Benedict himself -- who has welcomed the return of Jews to their ancient homeland."

In Jews, Judaism & Catholic Education, the Reverend Robert A. Everett is quoted as saying that "Christian resistance to the Jewish State [the Land of Israel] will continue as long as Christians are unable to overcome the theological prejudice which says Jews are to be victims.  Until we do overcome, until we are able to support and defend the Jewish State [the Jewish Homeland] we Christians will remain tied to a theological tradition which justifies our playing a role in victimizing the Jewish people."

Thus, in only 25 years, all that Sister Rose Thering assiduously worked for is now being eradicated as the latest Vatican Synod "regresses to hard-line positions that [effectively] deny Israel's right to exist." Though the Nostra Aetate stated that "all should take pains [not] to teach anything out of harmony with the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ," it is abundantly clear that this is precisely what this latest Vatican synod is doing."

Instead of dealing with the vicious persecution of Christians in Muslim lands, the bishops blame Israel. And the Muslim perpetrators of the ongoing violence against Christians are never brought to justice. Moreover, the bishops "called on the international community to apply UN Security Council resolutions adopted in 1967, which call on Israel to withdraw from Arab land conquered in the Six Day War."

Totally disregarded is the protection that Israel affords all religions; totally ignored is that Israel has already returned land that was won in the 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973 wars. Totally forgotten are the searing pictures of Israeli police forcibly removing Israeli Jewish citizens from communities established in the Sinai Desert as well as the Gaza Strip in order that Palestinians could develop their own country. In fact, although in August 2005, Israel evacuated almost 10,000 Jews from their homes in the Gaza Strip, this did not stop the 7,000 rockets fired at Israeli citizens. 

Totally overlooked are the daily Arabic language broadcasts exhorting mayhem and murder against every Israeli and Jew. In October 2010, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas sent a personal emissary to "convey condolences to 'martyrs' of the Palestinian revolution" -- their heroism consisted of murdering a 45-year-old rabbi, father of seven, who was ambushed in his car by four members of the Palestinian Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Recall that the PLO does "not consider the murder of Israeli citizens - in pizza parlors, in schools, in hospitals - to be terrorism.  They call it resistance and they call those who are killed on these strikes shahids or martyrs."

Conveniently dismissed is that according to the PLO Charter, "the Palestinians are those Arab nationals who, until 1947, normally resided in Palestine regardless of whether they were evicted from it or stayed there. [Thus,] anyone born after that date, of a Palestinian father-whether in Palestine or outside it-is also a Palestinian." Furthermore, "armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine.  This is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. ..." Are these are the people Israel should negotiate with -- a people who name a public square to honor the lead terrorist in one of the most bloody attacks in the history of the State of Israel?

Sadly, Sister Rose is not here to shame these so-called men of the cloth who now join in the cacophony of voices aimed at the destruction of the Jewish homeland.

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com.
In 1986, I was proud to play a very small part in the completion of the documentary research survey report by Sister Rose Thering entitled Jews, Judaism & Catholic Education. Sister Rose had prepared this work for the twentieth anniversary of the 1965 Promulgation of Vatican II Document Nostra Aetate. Co-published by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai  B'rith, the American Jewish Committee, and Seton Hall University, the survey "sought to determine what effect, if any, the [1965 Conciliar Statement on Catholics' Relationship to Jews and Judaism, the 1974 Roman Catholic Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementation of the 1965 Vatican II Document, and the 1975 U.S. Bishops' Statement on the Jews] had on [Catholic] curricula, teaching methods and materials, ecumenical programs and faculties."

The 1974 Roman Catholic Suggestions and Guidelines stated that

Christians must therefore strive to acquire a better knowledge of the basic components of the religious tradition of Judaism; they must strive to learn by what essential traits Jews define themselves in the light of their own religious experience.

Sister Rose found that "seminaries who responded to [her] questionnaire [saw] the great need for implementation of the teaching of the aforementioned documents.  As a result of the research survey, respondents stated that they "now had a more profound understanding and a new appreciation of contemporary Judaism."

When it came to the Diocesan/Archdiocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Commissions, Sister Rose's findings "demonstrated that some work was being done in Catholic-Jewish concerns. That much more needs to be done is evident[, however,] from the responses."  At that time, Sister Rose recommended that "courses related to Jews, Judaism, the Holocaust and the State of Israel" be implemented in Catholic high schools.

Most importantly, Sister Rose ardently believed that to those "working in the area of Christian-Jewish encounters this means that Christians must come to an understanding of Torah, People, and Land, three very important components of Judaism." And "lastly, the 1985 document from the Vatican Commission, 'Notes,' states that:

The history of Israel did not end in 70 A.D. It continued ... which allowed Israel to carry to the whole world a witness, often heroic of its fidelity to the one God ... while preserving the memory of the Land of their forefathers at the heart of their hope.  Christians must understand this [Jewish] attachment to the Land.

I am glad that Sister Rose is no longer here.

For she would weep at the latest Vatican synod which calls for an end to Israel's so-called occupation. Lisa Palmieri-Billig, a Jerusalem Post correspondent, writes that "[b]ishops from the Middle East who were summoned by Rome by the pope demanded on October 23, 2010 that Israel accept UN resolutions calling for an end to its 'occupation' of Arab lands."

In Sister Rose's seminal work, she quotes the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, who at the time explained that

[i]n dialogue with Christians, Jews have explained that they do not consider themselves as a church, a sect, or a denomination, as is the case among Christian communities, but rather as a peoplehood that is not solely racial, ethnic or religious, but in a sense a composite of all these.  It is for such reasons that an overwhelming majority of Jews see themselves bound in one way or another to the land of Israel.  Most Jews see this tie to the land as essential to their Jewishness.  Whatever difficulties Christians may experience in sharing this view they should strive to understand this link between land and people which Jews have expressed in their writings and worship throughout two millennia as a longing for the homeland, holy Zion.  Appreciation of this link is not to give assent to any particular religious interpretation of this bond.  Nor is this affirmation meant to deny the legitimate rights of other parties in the region, or to adopt any political stance in the controversies over the Middle East, which lie beyond the purview of this statement.

But now in October 2010, Monsignor Cyril Salim Bustros, Greek Melkite archbishop of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Boston, Massachusetts has stated that "[t]he Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians, to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands." Furthermore, Bustros said that "[w]e Christians cannot speak of the 'promised land' as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people.  This promise was nullified by Christ[.]" And finally, Bustros affirms that "[t]he Palestinian refugees will eventually come back and this problem will have to be solved."

In essence, these words contradict "the Second Vatican Council teaching and Pope Benedict himself -- who has welcomed the return of Jews to their ancient homeland."

In Jews, Judaism & Catholic Education, the Reverend Robert A. Everett is quoted as saying that "Christian resistance to the Jewish State [the Land of Israel] will continue as long as Christians are unable to overcome the theological prejudice which says Jews are to be victims.  Until we do overcome, until we are able to support and defend the Jewish State [the Jewish Homeland] we Christians will remain tied to a theological tradition which justifies our playing a role in victimizing the Jewish people."

Thus, in only 25 years, all that Sister Rose Thering assiduously worked for is now being eradicated as the latest Vatican Synod "regresses to hard-line positions that [effectively] deny Israel's right to exist." Though the Nostra Aetate stated that "all should take pains [not] to teach anything out of harmony with the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ," it is abundantly clear that this is precisely what this latest Vatican synod is doing."

Instead of dealing with the vicious persecution of Christians in Muslim lands, the bishops blame Israel. And the Muslim perpetrators of the ongoing violence against Christians are never brought to justice. Moreover, the bishops "called on the international community to apply UN Security Council resolutions adopted in 1967, which call on Israel to withdraw from Arab land conquered in the Six Day War."

Totally disregarded is the protection that Israel affords all religions; totally ignored is that Israel has already returned land that was won in the 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973 wars. Totally forgotten are the searing pictures of Israeli police forcibly removing Israeli Jewish citizens from communities established in the Sinai Desert as well as the Gaza Strip in order that Palestinians could develop their own country. In fact, although in August 2005, Israel evacuated almost 10,000 Jews from their homes in the Gaza Strip, this did not stop the 7,000 rockets fired at Israeli citizens. 

Totally overlooked are the daily Arabic language broadcasts exhorting mayhem and murder against every Israeli and Jew. In October 2010, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas sent a personal emissary to "convey condolences to 'martyrs' of the Palestinian revolution" -- their heroism consisted of murdering a 45-year-old rabbi, father of seven, who was ambushed in his car by four members of the Palestinian Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Recall that the PLO does "not consider the murder of Israeli citizens - in pizza parlors, in schools, in hospitals - to be terrorism.  They call it resistance and they call those who are killed on these strikes shahids or martyrs."

Conveniently dismissed is that according to the PLO Charter, "the Palestinians are those Arab nationals who, until 1947, normally resided in Palestine regardless of whether they were evicted from it or stayed there. [Thus,] anyone born after that date, of a Palestinian father-whether in Palestine or outside it-is also a Palestinian." Furthermore, "armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine.  This is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. ..." Are these are the people Israel should negotiate with -- a people who name a public square to honor the lead terrorist in one of the most bloody attacks in the history of the State of Israel?

Sadly, Sister Rose is not here to shame these so-called men of the cloth who now join in the cacophony of voices aimed at the destruction of the Jewish homeland.

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com.