Rabbi David Rosen at the Synod of Bishops

Rabbi David Rosen was the Jewish speaker at this years synod of Bishops, which was dedicated to the situation of Christians in the Middle East. Rosen was the former chief rabbi of Ireland, currently works as the interfaith representative from the AJC, is adviser to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, and represents the State of Israel in interfaith dialogue. Rosen may be chosen by the ministry of religion and the chief Rabbinate but his views do not reflect those of the current foreign minister. He also holds a knighthood from the Vatican. Two years ago, the Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Rabbi Shaar Yashuv Cohen spoke at the synod of Bishops. Rabbi Cohen is currently, the de facto rabbinical decider (posek) for matters of interfaith.

In the speech, Rosen first speaks of the changed relationship from teaching of contempt to friendship. Then he speaks about the suffering of Christians in the Middle East (I skipped the political sections because I don’t want to debate politics). Rosen is adamant that  no one should have their dignity and rights taken away. He is glad that Israel has responded to pressure and returned some rights to clergy.  His big plea at the end is that events in middle east and the actions of the Israeli government should not be dampen relations between the faith. He quotes JPII that Judaism is intrinsic to Christianity.

Rabbi Rosen also quotes the Catholic catechism, discussed  here in the comments on the Rabbi Riskin post.  The section he cites is Catechism of the Catholic Church (sect.839) :-“It is in pondering her own mystery that the Church, the People of God of the New Covenant, discovers her own profound bond with the Jews, who were chosen by the Lord before all others to receive His word.” Rabbi Rosen cites it from a specific speech of Pope Benedict where Benedict explains this quote as indicating that  “the Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation”. This implies that Judaism already contains the Christian revelation but is a different response than the Christian response. The question is whether Judaism is a separate path for Jews or an incomplete version of Christianity. There is also the ambiguity if the mystery of God’s choosing the Jews is a positive contrast or a negative mystery of contrast. Either way, Christianity has been re-contextualized in Judaism.

Here is the writeup from Zenit, the News service from Rome. Here is the full transcript of the talk.

The  Jewish-Christian relationship and the Middle East
by Rabbi David Rosen

The relationship today between Christianity and the Jewish people is a blessed transformation in our times – arguably without historic parallel. In his words in the great synagogue here in Rome last January, H.H. Pope Benedict XVI referred to the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council as “a clear landmark to which constant reference is made in our attitude and our relations with the Jewish people, marking a new and significant stage.”

Naturally this striking sea change in the way the Jewish people is viewed and presented , still had and has to contend with the influence of centuries, if not millenia of the “teaching of contempt” towards Jews and Judaism, which obviously is not eliminated overnight nor even over forty five years. Accordingly the impact of this transformation in Catholic-Jewish relations varies considerably from one context to another. Arguably the most dramatic internalization has taken place in the United States of America where Jews and Christians live in an open society side by side as vibrant self-confident and civically engaged minorities. As a result the relationship has advanced there to a unique degree involving cooperation and exchanges between the communities and their educational institutions; and today the US boasts literally dozens of academic institutions for Catholic-Jewish studies and relations, while there are perhaps three in the rest of the world. Indeed there is a widespread perception among the Jewish communities in the US of the Catholic Church as a genuine friend with profound values and interests in common.

However there are many countries where the abovementioned social and demographic factors are not present. In most countries where Catholicism is the dominant social force, Jewish communities are small if present at all, and the relationship between the Church and Judaism often gets little notice. I confess to having been surprised to find Catholic clergy and sometimes even hierarchy from some countries, who are not only remarkably ignorant about Judaism, but often even about Nostra Aetate itself and the relevant teachings of the Magisterium concerning Jews and Judaism.

While as indicated, Jewish experience in the US has done much to alleviate negative impressions of the tragic past; there is still widespread ignorance about Christianity in the Jewish world – especially where there is little or no contact at all with modern Christians.

Nevertheless the plight of Palestinians generally and Palestinian Christians in particular should be of profound concern to Jews both in Israel and the Diaspora.

To begin with, especially as Judaism brought to the world the recognition that every human person is created in the Divine Image; and that accordingly, as the sages of the Talmud teach, any action of disrespect for another person, is an act of disrespect for the Creator himself; we have a special responsibility for our immediate neighbors.

Below is Rosen’s well-crafted pitch not to let politics interfere with interfaith relations which is combined with a push to attain greater clarity from the Vatican on the role of Judaism within their theology. Rosen frames the discussion in such a way as to bracket out the more restrictive voices and to push for a stronger theological acceptance of Judaism. He also uses some of the words of JPII to push for an expansive reading of the catechism. The bold was in the version that I received.

However the Instrumentum Laboris commenting on Dei Verbum describes the dialogue of  the Church “with her elder brothers” as not just necessary, but as “essential” (sect.87). Indeed in his visit to the great synagogue in this city this year, Pope Benedict XVI quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church (sect.839) :-
“It is in pondering her own mystery that the Church, the People of God of the New Covenant, discovers her own profound bond with the Jews, who were chosen by the Lord before all others to receive His word” ;  and added that “the Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation”.
These words echo those of the late Pope John Paul II who in his historic visit to the same central Jewish place of worship in this city in 1986 declared that “the Jewish religion is not extrinsic to us but in a certain way is intrinsic to our own religion.
With Judaism therefore we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion.”
Furthermore in his Apostolic Exhortation of June 28th 2003 he described “dialogue and cooperation with believers of the Jewish religion” as being “fundamentally important for the self-knowledge of Christians” in keeping with the Synod’s call “for acknowledgment of the common roots linking Christianity and the Jewish people, who are called by God to a covenant which remains irrevocable”

As I have indicated, I am fully cognizant of the fact that the political realities in the Middle East do not always make it easy for Christians to acknowledge let alone embrace these exhortations. However I pray that the miracle of what John Paul II referred to as “the flowering of a new springtime in mutual relations” will increasingly become evident in the Middle East, as throughout the world.

Here is the WJC write-up emphasizing the political.

From the Jpost article:

the Sunni representative, Muhammad al-Sammak, political councilor to the mufti of Lebanon
Asked whether he agreed with Rosen’s statement that Christians could become “blessed peacemakers in the city whose name means peace,” the Lebanese political councilor replied, “I subscribe blindly to anything said by Rabbi David Rosen.”

3 responses to “Rabbi David Rosen at the Synod of Bishops

  1. That was a very strong speech.

    It’s not clear to me how the Church would benefit by further clarifying their theological stance on the Jews. They’re already fighting internal battles over it, and short of deciding that there is no need for even mission to the Jews (i.e., that the Jews have a path of their own to salvation and have no need at all for Jesus and the Church), they’ve may have benefited as much as they can in the inter-faith relationship.

    Any further movement towards acknowledging that the Jews already have their own path to salvation would likely further alienate the more conservative of their clergy and lay folk who read the Cathechism as reinforcing the Church’s historical (pre-Vatican II) stance. Movement away would strengthen those in the Jewish camp who never acknowledged the Church’s Vatican II overture as anything substantial, and who criticized the inter-faith effort from the outset.

    Perhaps their current stance is as good as it will get?

  2. You write Rabbi Cohen is currently, the de facto rabbinical decider (posek) for matters of interfaith.
    For whom is he the posek, and what does it mean that he is the “de-facto” posek? Who agrees to listen to him? He’s definitely not my posek.

  3. For those representatives connected to the chief rabbinate, official State of Israel representation, or ministry of relgion.

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