March 9, 2000
volume 11, no. 49
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Statements by Fr. Georges Cottier, Theologian of Papal Household while Italian Jewish Leader wants more from the Church

    VATICAN CITY, MAR 8 (ZENIT/CWN).- The international press has given much space to the document "Memory and Reconciliation: the Church and Faults of the Past," presented in the Vatican yesterday. In the vast majority of cases, the document was well received, but there have been some misunderstandings. Fr. Georges Cottier, secretary of the International Theological Commission that authored the document, and theologian of the Papal Household, spoke to Vatican Radio to clarify a number of issues.

    "The Holy Father's initiative is so surprising and so stupendous that it requires reflection. It has surprised many people, including Catholics themselves, some of whom have said that perhaps he has gone a bit too far, that it is somewhat imprudent. Others wondered how it would be received by the majority of Catholics," Fr. Cottier disclosed.

    The French theologian explained: "We had to reply, because it is a pastoral problem. We had to make it understood that this looking at the truth of the Church's past allows for clear discernment of what the Spirit does in the Church as a result of the behavior of her children, who are often sinners. We had to make manifest the social dimensions of our acts, because many sins of Christians scandalize and impede the purity of the announcement of the Gospel. In serving the truth, the Church makes herself stronger, precisely because she leans on truth itself. In our document, and in 'Tertio Millennio Adveniente,' a phrase is quoted from the Conciliar Declaration on religious liberty that states: 'truth is defended only with truth itself.' "

    Fr. Cottier then commented on the difficulty of determining what historical faults require a request for pardon. "First of all, we must speak of the faults that really existed. When speaking of the Church's past, many things are said, which are often calumnies or myths. Historical truth is the first requirement. We must speak of real events and of their real significance. Moreover, it must be said that all Christians sin -- and this is true -- but it is also true that at the beginning of Mass we always ask for forgiveness for our sins and the Church has always asked for forgiveness of sins. From my point of view, it's about seeing which sins, scandals, or anti-testimonies constitute an obstacle to people's coming to Christ and his Gospel," the Dominican theologian stressed.

    Fr. Cottier said that the document is no more than the result of the work of a group of theologians, not a pontifical decree. He invited these experts to seriously continue with this reflection. "The Pope has opened a new page in theology," Fr. Cottier concluded. ZE00030808

    Catholic World News reports that the leader of Italy's Jewish communities on Wednesday said the Catholic Church's plans for reconciliation with the sins of Christians of the past is inadequate when it comes to the Holocaust.

    Amos Luzzatto, president of the Union of Jewish Communities, told reporters that a document released this week outlining the framework of the pardon did not go far enough in speaking about the behavior of Catholics during the Holocaust which left 6 million Jews dead as well as anti-Semitism before World War II.

    "The Church not only had theological relations (with the Jews) but also political relations, with real decrees and laws which inflicted defamation, alienation, the ghettos, and the yellow star on the Jews," he said. Prior to Italian unification in 1870, the popes were political rulers over central Italy when much of what Luzzatto described took place.

    "There is no mention of this. It seems to me that to say all these things were the effect of some Christians who did not understand the Gospel message is very limiting and very doubtful," he said. "It was not 'some Christians' who issued decrees like that of Pope Paul IV to lock Jews in the ghetto ...," he said. Pope Paul IV reigned in the 16th century.

    A papal letter published in 1998 made extensive reference to the Holocaust and historic anti-Semitism among members of the Church.


March 9, 2000
volume 11, no. 49

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