VATICAN CITY — Following are excerpts from a joint communique issued in English after the meeting Tuesday between Pope John Paul II and a delegation of Jewish leaders:
Representatives of the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews and of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations met in Rome on Monday, Aug. 31, 1987.
The meeting was joined by a representative of the Council for Public Affairs for the church. The meeting was described by its co-sponsors as part of an ongoing process in response to difficulties which have risen in the relationship in recent months.
The agenda for the meeting included the Shoah (Holocaust), contemporary anti-Semitism, Catholic teaching on Jews and Judaism, and relations between the Holy See and the state of Israel. The discussion was open and free and all issues were discussed in candor and friendship.
In the discussion of the Shoah, the Catholic delegation recalled the importance of Pope John Paul II's moving statement in Warsaw on June 14, 1987, his letter to Archbishop John May, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (U.S.A.) of Aug. 8, 1987, and the decision to discuss the Shoah "in its religious and historical perspectives" at the next meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee in Washington, D.C., in December, 1987.
Different Views of Waldheim Audience
In the context of the discussion on the moral implication of the Shoah, the delegations explained their different perceptions of the papal audience with (Austrian) President Kurt Waldheim. The Jewish delegation expressed its dismay and concern over the moral problems raised for the Jewish people by the audience. The Catholic delegation acknowledged the seriousness of and the Church's sensitivity to those Jewish concerns, and set forth the serious reasons behind the judgment of the Holy See.
Cardinal John Willebrands, president of the Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews, announced the intention of the commission to prepare an official Catholic document on the Shoah, the historical background of anti-Semitism and its contemporary manifestations.
The Jewish delegation warmly welcomed this initiative and expressed the conviction that such a document will contribute significantly to combatting attempts to revise and to deny the reality of Shoah and to trivialize its religious significance for Christians, Jews and humanity.
The Jewish delegation expressed the concern of world Jewry at the absence of full diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the state of Israel. Representatives of the Holy See declared that there exist no theological reasons in Catholic doctrine that would inhibit such relations, but noted there do exist some serious and unresolved problems in the area.
Misunderstandings Over Israel Acknowledged
In view of recent controversies and to avoid further misunderstandings, Cardinal Willebrands envisaged the development of a special mechanism that would more closely follow trends and concerns within the world Jewish community and improve contacts with the secretariat of state. The Jewish delegation in turn committed itself to adapt its own structures as appropriate.
On the issue of the presentation of Judaism in Catholic teaching and preaching, the Jewish group expressed gratification for progress made over the years. The Catholic side acknowledged that much further work still needs to be done to implement the Second Vatican Council and subsequent official statements within the life of the church.
The Jewish delegation declared its strong opposition to any and all anti-Catholic manifestations and pledged itself to join with Catholics in opposing them.
On Tuesday morning, the Jewish delegation met with Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, secretary of state. In this cordial meeting . . . it was agreed that as occasions require, in areas which are of concern to the world Jewish community and where religious and political issues intertwine, future exchanges between IJCIC and the secretariat of state will be possible from time to time.
'Free and Open Conversation' With Pope
At noon on Tuesday, the participants were received at Castel Gandolfo by His Holiness John Paul II. The meeting took the form of a free and open conversation among those present.
The Jewish delegates expressed their appreciation for this unusual meeting, and also their concerns and hopes for the future. The Pope welcomed the Jewish delegation as representatives of the Jewish people, to whom the existence of Israel is central.
The Pope affirmed the importance of the proposed document on the Shoah and anti-Semitism for the church and for the world. The Pope spoke of his personal experience in Poland and his memory of living close to a Jewish community now destroyed.
Citing the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt as a paradigm and a continuing source of hope, the Pope movingly expressed his deep conviction that, with God's help, evil can be overcome in history, even the awesome evil of the Shoah.