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In Troubled Days, Religions need to find Common Ground

November 3, 2005

Rabbi Apple

Rabbi Raymond Apple
Photo: Sahlan Hayes

For almost 2000 years of Catholic history, the Jews were considered a cursed nation. They were the villains of the most heinous crime in human history: they were the killers of Christ.

Then in 1965 came the Second Vatican Council's declaration on inter-religious dialogue, which halted the blame game and revolutionized relations by repudiating the concept of continuing collective Jewish guilt for the death of Christ.

Sydney Catholics and Jews recently marked the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, Latin for "In our Time", at a point when the central question is still being posed: can there be true reconciliation for these two great religions when one does not affirm the universality of salvation through Jesus Christ that is so fundamental to the other?

Rabbi Raymond Apple, joint president of the Australian Council of Christians and Jews, says dialogue is not about either side seeking to change the other.

"Neither religion is going to change in itself, so what we are talking about is the respectful understanding between neighbors who each have their own family, their own way of thinking and their own commitments," he says.

"Catholics will remain Catholics and Jews will remain Jews. There will always be differences but the question is can we live together regardless of difference from the theological, and the answer is we can and we must."

Mel Gibson's "unreconstructed pre-Vatican II" take on the Crucifixion in The Passion has been one of the setbacks to the cause of mutual understanding, Rabbi Apple says.

"So far the dialogue has been a rarefied, top-echelon exercise so we need to be able to bring the new spirit particularly into Catholic seminaries, teachers' colleges and to the person in the pew."

Part of the challenge lies in connecting the immoveable fringes of both faiths. Interfaith dialogue has been mostly a conversation between church moderates.

Cardinal Edward Cassidy, the retired president of the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, accompanied Pope John Paul II on his historic visit in 2000 to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest site in Judaism. He says inter-religious dialogue is not an option so much as an imperative in a world of escalating religious conflicts.

"We all know that much more has to be done in this field in both communities," he says. "But we must not be satisfied with that, for we have so much in common that we can offer together to a troubled world."

 

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