AJC Interreligious Director, Rabbi David Rosen, Addresses Vatican Synod

October 13, 2010 – Rome – The American Jewish Committee’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs, Rabbi David Rosen, delivered today a historic speech on Christian-Jewish relations to the Vatican Special Synod on the Middle East. AJC’s Rosen is the only Jewish representative invited to address the two-week gathering of Catholic leaders.

Hailing the “blessed transformation” of the relationship between the two faiths over the past 50 years, Rosen stressed that the strongest Jewish-Christian relationships are in the United States. “The U.S. boasts literally dozens of academic institutions for Christian-Jewish studies and relations, while there are perhaps only three in the rest of the world,” Rosen said.

In contrast, a major hurdle to deepening mutual understanding is the lack of opportunities for Christian-Jewish interaction around the world.

“I confess to having been surprised to find Catholic clergy, and sometimes even hierarchy from some countries, not only ignorant about contemporary Judaism but often even about Nostra Aetate itself,” Rosen said.

At the same time, Rosen noted what he called “widespread ignorance” about Christianity in the Jewish world, notably in Israel.

“Until recently most of Israeli society has been quite unaware of the profound changes in Catholic-Jewish relations,” said Rosen, though he acknowledged that “this situation has begun to alter significantly in the last decade.”

Rosen said the improvement was due firstly to Pope John Paul II’s visit in 2000, and, secondly, to the influx of Christians, part of the wave of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, that doubled the Christian population in Israel.

Initiatives have flourished with “dozens of bodies promoting interreligious encounter, dialogue and studies in Israel, and the Christian presence in these, which include Jews and Muslims in Israel, is disproportionate and highly significant,” said Rosen.

“The wellbeing of Christian communities in the Middle East is nothing less than a kind of barometer,” he said. “The degree to which Christians enjoy civil and religious rights and liberties testifies to the health or infirmity of the respective societies in the Middle East,” said Rosen, adding that In Israel Christians “enjoy full franchise and equality before the law.”
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