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New Vatican document: Catholics should not seek to convert Jews

December 10, 2015

A new Vatican document teaches that Catholics should not actively seek the conversion of Jews.

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“The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable,” released on December 10 by the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, underlines and clarifies the message of the benchmark Vatican II document, Nostra Aetate. The new Vatican statement was released to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II document.

In an unmistakable sign of the progress in relations between Catholics and Jews, the Vatican document was introduced at a press conference at which Cardinal Kurt Koch, the chairman of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, shared the podium with Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee.

The Vatican document emphasizes the Jewish roots of Christian faith, and stresses that God first revealed himself to the Hebrews. "The Church is therefore obliged to view evangelization to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views,” the document says.

The lengthy document explains:

Although Jews cannot believe in Jesus Christ as the universal redeemer, they have a part in salvation, because the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. How that can be possible remains an unfathomable mystery in the salvific plan of God.

"In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews," the Vatican statement says.

The Vatican statement encourages Christians to “bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ to Jews,” but says that this should be done “in a humble and sensitive manner,” recognizing that the Jewish people also bear witness to the Word of God.

The document also teaches that Catholics should understand the special significance of the Holocaust to the Jewish people, and should fight against any sign of prejudice against Jews. “A Christian can never be an anti-Semite, especially because of the Jewish roots of Christianity," the Vatican document says.”

In his presentation at the December 10 press conference, Rabbi Rosen welcomed the new statement, while emphasizing that it was an outgrowth of Nostra Aetate and calling for a deeper appreciation of the Vatican II document. He expressed satisfaction with the forthright statement that Catholics should not engage in programmatic efforts to convert Jews. “You could deduce it from Nostra Aetate, you could deduce it from subsequent comments, but I don’t think it’s ever been written down explicitly this way,” he said.


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Show 14 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Bernadette - Dec. 13, 2015 10:13 PM ET USA

    Tell that to a Converted or Completed Jew! They will not agree with you. They want their fellow Jews to know the Truth, the One, True Church. They disagree with this document. Check out the Society of Hebrew Catholics. Here is an interesting story by a Converted/Completed Jew:

  • Posted by: nix898049 - Dec. 13, 2015 6:45 PM ET USA

    Although Jews CANNOT believe in Jesus Christ as the universal redeemer,... this is a very troubling phrase. St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us.

  • Posted by: loumiamo - Dec. 12, 2015 7:42 AM ET USA

    Went back and read Romans 11, a great chapter for anyone who doesn't recognize the warning in 2 Peter 3:16. Wrapping all that together might be helpful here, but don't forget the aspirin.

  • Posted by: Travelling - Dec. 11, 2015 11:36 PM ET USA

    I agree that this doesn't make sense. God's gifts and calling are irrevocable,indeed they apply to all of us. The first Covenant, however, is a different matter. This was revoked. Please correct me if I am wrong about this, St Paul describes clearly how the new covenant replaces the old. So, although there is no specific evangelisation towards Jews, they should by interpret this as meaning that they do not need to convert. And our evangelisation should be towards all non -Catholics.

  • Posted by: bruno - Dec. 11, 2015 10:00 AM ET USA

    I don't see much here to wring my hands over. Jews and Christians alike are up against the wall and under threat from all quarters. This might be a bad time to lecture others about the differences that separate us rather than call upon that part of our faith that unites us.

  • Posted by: jslabonik53 - Dec. 11, 2015 9:15 AM ET USA

    Church is using reverse psychology. Expect wave of conversions of Jews.

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Dec. 11, 2015 9:15 AM ET USA

    I agree with Minnesota Mary -- something doesn't seem right. By all means, we should be respectful toward the Jews. However, I pray daily in my rosary intentions for the conversion of all non-Catholics to the one true Faith. How God chooses to answer that prayer will be a mystery and in His time, not mine. That does not mean we should stop evangelizing. I sense a growing disconnect between the reality of ordinary faithful Catholics and the churchmen who lead us -- in many ways.

  • Posted by: cummingspm6120 - Dec. 11, 2015 7:57 AM ET USA

    I agree Minnesota Mary. If we do not actively seek their conversion are we not neglecting the "lost sheep of Israel"?

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Dec. 11, 2015 12:20 AM ET USA

    The tumultuous unclear times at the Vatican continue apace. OK, let's view it as different so then what's the difference with any Protestant denomination? After all, they have a part in salvation also as they are genuine believers; in fact, the ones I've met seem to have more faith than some Catholics (including me I fear).

  • Posted by: jeanneg117438 - Dec. 10, 2015 9:54 PM ET USA

    I am struggling to understand this. Jesus tried to convert the Jews, right? But, we shouldn't? Peter, Paul, all the apostles tried to convert the Jews. But, we shouldn't? Help me understand this.

  • Posted by: Gregory108 - Dec. 10, 2015 9:11 PM ET USA

    Paging the Apostle Paul: Please cease and desist! Now! And that goes for the rest of you 12! We now know you did not really hear Jesus right, when he said that you should baptize all nations, teaching them to observe what he commanded you, starting in Jerusalem! Start somewhere else! Not in Jerusalem. In fact, skip all of Israel for that matter! In fact, skip anyone who traces their roots to Israel. signed, The Vatican

  • Posted by: 1Jn416 - Dec. 10, 2015 7:53 PM ET USA

    My impression is that people (including those presenting the document to the press) are misreading it. No "specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews," I take to mean there isn't a "Congregation for the Conversion of the Jewish People." And the subsequent text clearly indicates we ARE to evangelize Jews, but with sensitivity due to the persecution they have experienced in the past. Am I off base here? In any event, Christ said, "Go and make disciples of all nations." (Mt 28:19)

  • Posted by: skall391825 - Dec. 10, 2015 7:48 PM ET USA

    "the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable....this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews." That is the mother of all non-sequiturs because the Old Testament is nothing if not the prediction TO THE JEWS of the coming of Jesus, their Christ. Francis owes us clarity if he expects us to accept this "teaching." If it's not a teaching we are bound to accept (like man-made global warming), he should tell us.

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Dec. 10, 2015 6:41 PM ET USA

    Let's see, didn't Jesus say, I come first for the House of Israel? And what about the great commission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew? Weren't the Apostles working to convert Jews? Something is not right here.