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Vatican cardinal reflects on contentious issues in relations with Jews

Catholic World News - May 16, 2013

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews, has fielded questions on important issues in Jewish-Catholic relations, including the relation between the Old and New Covenants, the potential beatification of Pope Pius XII, and the lifting of the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson.

Asked whether Christians should regard State of Israel “as a modern fulfillment of the biblical promises of land to the Jews,” Cardinal Koch, who also serves as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, replied:

That is a very difficult question. The question as to the relation between the biblical promise of land and its fulfillment in 1948 in the State of Israel has on the one hand a theological and on the other hand a political significance. It is true that the promise of the land is part of Israel’s identity. But we have to distinguish between promise and accomplishment. Palestinian Christians would emphatically disagree with you there. They experienced the new Israeli annexation as nakba, as a catastrophe, which often led to the loss of their ancient homeland through flight and banishment.

That is understandable. Because the promise has to be distinguished from the political manner in which it is carried out. The Palestinian Christians experienced it as an event that was unjust for them and associated with violence. Hence you can understand that Palestinian Christians, for example, cannot adopt a theological interpretation of the founding of the State of Israel. Moreover the Palestinians too have the right to their own State.

Referring to “the great contribution of Pope Benedict to the Jewish-Catholic dialogue,” Cardinal Koch said that the Pope Emeritus “carried on and enriched the great heritage of Pope John Paul II” and added that “our Jewish [dialogue] partners are looking to Pope Francis with great expectations and hope.”

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