Freedom of Religion Must Be Guaranteed to Both Individuals and Communities!
JERUSALEM – Here is the statement issued by the Bilateral Commission Meeting of the Delegation of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s Delegation for Relations with the Catholic Church. The meeting was held here June 26-28.
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I. The opening evening was graced by the presence of the Rishon L’Zion, Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar, Chief Rabbi of Israel, who expressed his fervent support for the dialogue to emphasize profound shared values of the two Traditions, while not ignoring the distinctions that make us different faith communities. Above all, the purpose of the dialogue is to promote the principles of sanctity and dignity of all human beings and to advance our cooperation for these goals.
In their welcome, the heads of the respective delegations, Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen and Cardinal Jorge MejJa expressed their profound satisfaction at the depth of understanding and friendship that had developed through the meetings of the bilateral committee.
II. Opening the deliberations — as this was the first meeting since the passing of Pope John Paul II of blessed memory — the chairmen made special mention of his historic contribution to Catholic-Jewish reconciliation and to the fact that this bilateral committee was the fruit of his initiative. Cardinal MejJa noted in addition, the remarkable reference to the former Chief Rabbi of Rome in Pope John Paul II’s will. Appreciation was expressed for the commitment to continue to promote these bilateral relations, on the part of his successor Pope Benedict XVI.
III. The theme of this fifth meeting was “The Relationship between Religious and Civil Authority in the Jewish and Christian Traditions.” Based on the Biblical vision of the distinct roles of Priest, Prophet and King, as well as their respective relationships with the people of God, the following key points were made:
1. Religious values are crucial for the well-being of the individual and society
2. The purpose of civil authority is to serve and provide for the welfare of the people through respecting the life and dignity of every individual
3. While emphasizing the importance of democracy in this regard, at the same time it is essential to legally protect society from extreme individualism, exploitation by vested interest groups and insensitivity to the cultural and moral values of religious tradition
4. Freedom of religion must be guaranteed to both individuals and communities by the religious and civil authorities
5. The relationship between religion and the State must be based on reciprocity, mutual respect and cooperation
6. Legislation for the promotion of particular religious values is legitimate when done in harmony with the principles of human rights
7. We have an ethical obligation to demonstrate religious responsibility in these regards, and especially to educate future generations through engaging media opinion makers as well as through conventional educational channels
IV. Discussion focused on the responsibility of the State to guarantee the rights of all religious communities giving special attention to the situation and needs of the Christian communities in the Holy Land, as well as the needs of Jewish communities around the world, facilitating full social and political equality without undermining particular identities.
Jerusalem, June 28th 2005 — 21 Sivan 5765
The Jewish Delegation
Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen
Chief Rabbi Rasson Arussi
Chief Rabbi David Brodman
Chief Rabbi Yossef Azran
Chief Rabbi David Rosen
Mr. Oded Wiener
Amb. Shmuel Hadas
The Catholic Delegation
Jorge Cardinal MejJa
Georges Cardinal Cottier, O.P.
Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo
Archimandrite Elias Chacour
Msgr. Pier Francesco Fumagalli
Father Norbert Hofmann, SDB
Nuncio Pietro Sambi