People of Israel, Land of Israel, State of Israel

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David Neuhaus, SJ

 David Neuhaus, SJ / Faith / 6 October 2020


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In 1994, the Holy See signed an agreement with the State of Israel, establishing diplomatic relations. Ever since, a debate has been raging about the position of the Catholic Church regarding a state that defines itself as Jewish and sees itself in continuity with ancient Israel in the biblical scriptures, which the Church also regards as sacred.

Jewish-Christian dialogue after the Second Vatican Council

The Church has been engaged in a process of reconciliation, dialogue and collaboration with Jews ever since the Second Vatican Council. Setting aside a “teaching of contempt,” the Church has sought to develop a “teaching of respect” for Jews and Judaism that takes seriously how Jews see themselves.[1]

The rethinking of the relationship with the Jews has opened the eyes of many Catholics to the living reality of the Jewish people, their identity and aspirations. A 1974 document insisted that “The history of Judaism did not end with the destruction of Jerusalem, but rather went on to develop a religious tradition. And, although we believe that the importance and meaning of that tradition were deeply affected by the coming of Christ, it is still nonetheless rich in religious values.”

Furthermore, “Christians must therefore strive to acquire a better knowledge of the basic components of the religious tradition of Judaism; they must strive to learn by what essential traits the Jews define themselves in the light of their own religious experience”[2]. In the post-Vatican II era, listening to Jews, Catholics have become more and more aware that many Jews today define themselves more as a people than as a religion and as such many of them lay claim to a land they call “the land of Israel” and identify with a state, “the State of Israel,” which has existed there since 1948. 

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