THE ROOTS OF ANTI-JUDAISM IN THE CHRISTIAN ENVIRONMENT
CREATING AND NOURISHING THE SIGNS OF A NEW DIALOGUE
Rino Fisichella President of Commissione Diocesana per l'Ecumenismo e il Dialogo
The adjective "inter-ecclesial" which accompanies and qualifies the Symposium on "The Root of Anti-Judaism in the Christian Environment" was not a casual choice. It, on the contrary, intends to specify the nature of the reflection which will be achieved and the finality which it reaches. Every scientific research necessarily starts with some premise which directs the study and poses a methodology which can attain concrete facts with pre-fixed objectives. The same thing is seen with this Symposium which poses the base of the study on the roots of anti-Judaism beginning with the distinctive theological reflection.
From the moment in which we take theology with a scientific perspective in mind, its distinction becomes abundantly clear. It does in fact proceed through a scientific methodology, yet knowing that faith is at the origin of its affirmations. Every theological research, which aims to be scientific, must begin with the contents of the revelation and favor a clearer and deeper intelligence of faith and of personal life. This premise is not obvious in the moment in which the distinction of the Symposium is evaluated on the roots of anti-Judaism and its main objective. The adjective inter-ecclesial, therefore says that the component which is recognized in this reflection has a common determining and primary matrix of faith in Christ. That which will be the object of study and of debate aims to clarify the contents of that faith, so that it can better affect the lives of the believers. Other discussions, connected to the theme in question and which would make some observers very happy, are not therefore, the object, nor directed or primary to these days of study. Going over these paths, may, inevitablly delude the expectations of those who want certain results from this Symposium which do not fall under its competence.
The revelations of God to humanity were made in different times with different ways, but a fundamental and decisive point is that it constituted a choice of Israel as the people of the Alliance. The election of Israel as the "people whom God chose" permeates as the point of no return of his revelation in our history. Not considering this reality is equivalent to betraying the plan of salvation and of not understanding the history of the revelation. Theology has a difficult duty in the moment in which it must safeguard the facts of the revelation explaining them in different contexts, and understanding how historically these were understood and interpreted. Christians, like everyone else, are sons of their time. What they have understood and expressed of the contents of their faith was achieved by the light of the common maturation of the intelligence of man; what they have misunderstood, does not, in any case, compromise the truth of the revealed contents.
There is however, an essential point of departure in this equation which finds its most qualifying expression in the words of the Second Vatican Council: «The Church of Christ recognized that the beginnings of its faith and of its election are already found, according to the divine mystery of salvation, in the Patriarchs, Moses and the Prophets. It affirms that all the faithful of Christ, sons of Abraham according to the faith, are included in the vocation of this Patriarch and that the salvation of the Church is mysteriously prefigured in the exodus of the elected people from the land of slavery. For this reason the Church cannot forget that it received the revelation from the Old Testament through that people which, God, in his ineffable mercy, deigned to tighten the Ancient Alliance and which is nurtured by the roots of the savage olive who are the Gentiles» (Nostra Aetate, 4).
Theologically, as its noted, the continuity and the newness of the relationship between the two Testaments and the people must be verified, without any possibility of being able to reach a form of juxtaposition. Faith cannot justify any form of anti-Judaism nor can the roots of this be found in the words of the Lord transmitted through his Church. The theology which permits the faith to reach a deeper intelligence of its contents and with the strength of arguments allows the coherent communication amongst contemporaries and becomes, at this point, a series of provocation for the culture.
This inter-ecclesial Symposium brings in itself an objective force that can favor an authentic cultural promotion. Culture, as is well know, extends itself on two different levels. Scientific progress is culture which allows the attainment of varying levels of knowledge, always more profound and the manifestations of the truth are always more genuine. But, culture is also the language and the behavior of the people who express a different degree of attained civility. The results of this Symposium tend to move on both of these levels, notwithstanding the distinction of the subject which is proposed. The Church, in the course of its two thousand year history never blocked the real progress of culture, instead, it was usually the origin.
There are however, two great enemies which always threaten the progress of culture: ignorance and reticence. Ignorance, unfortunately, has no boundaries and extends anywhere; it often expresses itself following common places, or in venting its own superiority with preconceived and unilateral theories. It derives, more often than not, the renunciation of having to think, for the presumption of already knowing everything, the fall in obviousness is the easiest destiny for those who follow this path. Reticence, instead, hovers near a smaller circle of people. It makes itself strong through power and expects the possession of truth. Arrogance and lies are often its companions and, together, they work to prevent the truth which is the patrimony of everyone.
Even a Symposium like ours can help to mortally wound these two enemies and create the conditions so that everyone is responsible of allowing that the road towards the truth is taken. In a period just like the present, which always has more thirst to know and which, on the other hand and contradictorily, presents models of ephemeral existence, it poses, in an urgent manner the need to follow the road of cultural promotion. The Symposium points the finger on the "roots" of anti-Judaism especially because evil must be stripped from the base, without pleasing itself with esthetic operations which hide instead of resolve.
Will it be capable of producing some effect? This depends on many factors. In the first place, by its capacity to know how to grasp its results with a free spirit. Participation in these days of debates are the greatest Christians experts on the subject; that which brings them together is the desire to share with the other the facts of their own research and bring them to the light of a scientific dialogue in which everyone knows how to weight the results of the other without having to think that it is the alternative of their own. Correct communication which is not marginalized in few lines, but rather with the proper importance given to an information which tends to promote culture and not be a simple fact, can greatly help in this phase. In the second place, the courage must be evaluated in order to have solicited the question. Nothing can be presumed from no one if not the love for the truth. This Symposium, and the upcoming one on the Inquisition is, in part still more prominent because it shows that it is part of the center of the faith - living for the truth in charity. We must not be afraid of the truth; it is the only road to be authentically free. Without an historic reality on the facts which involve everyone, it is not possible progressing in the walk towards forms of unity which are at the base of living civilly. By studying the roots of anti-Judaism we can contribute to surpass the misunderstandings which may have divided in the past; it will help to discover the distinctions of the two faiths and push to see the future with more serenity without building fences which never had any reason to exist.
This Symposium, finally, was thought of in order to correspond to the living desire of John Paul II, when he wrote in Terzo Millennio Adveniente: «The Church cannot cross the threshold of the new millennium without encouraging her children to purify themselves, through repentance, of past errors and instances of infidelity, inconsistency, and slowness to act. Acknowledging the weaknesses of the past is an act of honesty and courage which helps us to strengthen our faith» (TMA, 33). It is not possible to know at the moment what results the Symposium will achieve and it is not right to assume what still has to be demonstrated. In any case, we already have become aware of this fact, which is fundamental to reaffirm a culture of forgiveness which in recent years is undergoing an authentic threat. The Church which is responsible for asking forgiveness of its children gives a sign of great efficiency in the light of a culture which tends to hide its responsibilities and prefers revenge and hate to forgiveness. These sentiments, however, are not part of our culture, instead, on the horizon of universal love which knows how to be responsible even of the guilt of forgiveness destroyed in the death of the innocent. Knowing how to ask forgiveness is not an act of weakens; on the contrary, it expresses a great freedom, for this reason it is a sign of authentic progress.
The challenge, therefore, is posed in the capacity of knowing how to create new cultural expressions with new languages and behaviors which are capable of helping, mostly, the new generations to look at every person and people for their richness which they have and not for the limits which are arbitrarily established. If the Symposium can contribute to this walk, even by only helping to discern the necessary and due distinctions, which one so complex involves, then it will have attained a result which certainly cannot be neglected.