American Jewish Committee lauds Cardinal Kasper, noting opposition to proselytism [CC]

The American Jewish Committee presented its Isaiah Interreligious Award to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at the conclusion of its annual meeting on April 30.

“Cardinal Kasper has made some of the most far-reaching statements regarding the Catholic Church and Judaism, has firmly opposed attempts to proselytize Jews and has been a champion in the struggle against anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism," said Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s international director of interreligious affairs.


The “I-don’t-wanna-hear-about-no-Jeebus!” Award?


What does this mean?


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

It means that the cardinal apparently feels(Mods-before you suspend me I’m just quoting our Elder Brothers) that the people Jesus came to convert don’t need converting and that the New Covenant applies only to gentiles.According to the New Covenant gentiles were really an afterthought as evinced by ST Paul.Why did Christ come if not to convert His own people?.I’ve read your posts and you are hardly naiive.Salvation after all comes from the Jews n’est-ce pas?

Soutane got most of the idea.

A commitment to a no-proselytizing policy seems dangerous. After all, the Divine Doctors do state that a man cannot believe lest he know what to believe, and if the Catholic Church is not the one proselytizing first about Christ, then likely someone else will (with errors included).

We could argue that it is but one exception, but I feel this “exception” to the rule will only expand to include others who simply do not want their conscience burdened from the positive obligations inherent in the message of the Passion of Our Lord.

St Paul, in one of his letters, made it very clear his desire and hope for the Jewish people. I believe by not proselytizing at all, we may be letting him (and the Jewish people, for that matter) down.

How do we define “proselytizing” in this case? Is it a situation of forced conversions? That of course is a sin against charity and a sin against truth (was it Benjamin Franklin who said, “A mind changed against the will is of the same opinion still”?). Or is it simply offering information to another party in support of one’s position, engaging them in discussion, while the other still remains free to reject or accept the proposed position?

If the second, then what else is the task of the Church than to offer the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ…and specifically to those who were the first to hear the word of God? In this case, there is nothing anti-Semitic about “proselytizing”.

The Church disallowed proseletyzing of the Jews and Muslims in 1224 when St. Francis of Assisi presented his case to Pope Honorius. St. Francis had reached an agreement with the Sultan in Egypt that the Franciscans would be allowed to enter the Holy Land to serve the needs of Christians, Muslims and Jews without reprisals, as long as the friars did not attempt to convert the Muslims and Jews. Francis promised that the friars would never SAY anything to converrt a Mulsim or a Jew.

When he returned to Italy the Holy Father authorized the creation of a new branch of the Franciscans called the Commisereate of the Holy Land, which still exists today. These friars are mostly Italian, though there are many Americans there too. Their headquarters are now at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, DC. It was once in Italy. The friars ahve been in Palestine for almost 800 years under this treaty, which was later recognized by the State of Israel in or around 1950.

We have too look very carefully at what Francis and Honorius agreed to and how they understood proselytizing. Francis said that the friars would not SAY a word. He never promised that the friars would turn away anyone who came inquiring about the faith. He never said anything about hiding their Gospel way of lfie. For centuries, not only the Franciscans, who were the first to live among Jews and Muslims, but later other too, there has been a strict policy on the part of the Church to evangelize with charity, good example, compassion, justice and mutual cooperation. We have no idea of how many converts there have been, because record keeping began very recently.

This same idea later spread through Europoe during the Catholic Counter Reformation. The Church made a great effort to correct the heretical teachings that were going around, but she also corrected her own errors in judgment and disciplines.

Much later, Pope John XXIII made a clear distinction between proselytizing and evangelizing. Evangelizing is good, proselytizing is not good. Proselytizing is based on confrontation and negation of everything that another faith stands for. This is unacceptable to the Catholic Church, because many Catholic truths are found in Judaism and Islam.

This is why John XXIII had special comments inserted into the documents of Vatican II about both Jews and Islam having a special place in salvation history. This was later ratified by Paul VI who signed the final draft on Religious Freedom and again by John Paul II and today by B puenedict XVI.

The Cardinal has been working out of a paradigm that dates by to the 13th century. The only time when the Church had confrontations with Jews or Muslims was during aggressions on their part toward Christians. But since the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church has always had rather interesting dealings with both Muslims and Jews. There have been many academic and economic exchanges between the three. There have been tense moments between the three. There has also been a line that they have not crossed. Muslims and Jews have been very careful not to try to convert Catholics and the other way around. The times that this agreement has been broken either by Catholics, Muslims or Jews, it has ended up in bloodshed. Because it’s always broken by people who have another agenda.

The Church tries to be very careful to evangelize without pushing buttons or offending. The Church does believe that the Jewish people will be converted at the end of time. Because she does believe that the covenant has been fulfilled and God has indeed saved Israel. It’s a matter of time before Israel can see what has happened and accept it. The Church does not look at the Jewish people with disregard, disdain or condescension. Actually she has great respect for Jews. That’s why popes have make it a point to go pray in synagogues, to show Jews and Christians that there is a continuity between Judaism and Catholicism, not a competition. That is one form of evangelization.

It allows people to ask questions and get answers without having to get in their faces. They come freely.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Let’s not get TOO semantic about this shall we?.Evangelization is hardly what was being discussed.No one can proselytize today except at gunpoint and I’m not going to name names but…Historically we did it to Jews living in Spain-Forced conversion.But we’re not talking about forced conversion are we.We’re talking about Christs command to go forth to ALL nations and preach the gospel. Do you think he would have received the award had he simply evangelized the Jews.?Main Entry: evan·ge·lize
Pronunciation: \i-ˈvan-jə-ˌlīz
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): evan·ge·lized; evan·ge·liz·ing
Date: 14th century

transitive verb 1 : to preach the gospel to
2 : to convert to Christianityintransitive verb : to preach the gospel

— evan·ge·li·za·tion -ˌvan-jə-lə-ˈzā-shən\ noun

Do you think they would have given him the award had he preached the gospel to them?In other words evangelized them?I think not.I believe they would have considered that to be proselytizing.The only Christian Minister that I’m aware of who believes that Jews are exempt from the New Covenant is John Hagee.

And why oh why do we continue to pray for the conversion of the Jews every Easter much to the chagrin of our Elder Brothers?

Whether they are charinned or not, it is not offensive to pray for anyone. I don’t get too upset when someone else says not to pray for them. I do understand their concern. They are more afraid that Christians will be knocking at their doors trying to convert them.

Evengelization does not always mean to preach with words. As I laid out, our current position regarding Jews and Muslims is not new. It was an agreement between them and Francis of Assisi from the 13th century and it was ratified by Pope Honorius and remains in place to this day. Francis never agreed not to preach the Gospel. He agreed not to SAY a word. And he did not not, nor does he allow the friars to say a single word.

But that does not mean that the friars and other Christians who followed never evangelized. They simply followed the teaching of St. Francis, “preach always, but only when necessary use words.” In this situation words would have done more harm than good.

But evangelization is often much more powerful by witness, than by words. Look a the numbers of converts that the friars have attracted over eight centuries. Most them have never been called out by the friars. They met the friars, saw how they lived, worked, prayed and served. They were either curious or moved. This led to questions. The friars answered their questions This led to conversions. The agreement was not to go out and preach to Muslims and Jews, using words. It never said that the Church would not allow them to see the faith in action or that the Church would ignore their questions and curiosity. It was that the Church would not do anything that they would find offensive or invasive.

The forced baptisms and so forth, in Spain were not many. The Franciscans intervened before the pope and before the crown, because it was a violation of what St. Francis had set up. The Holy Father and the King put a stop to it. It took a while to get the word around since they did not have internet or TV, but it gradually disappeared.

The missionaries tried it again in South America. Again the Franciscan intervened. They went to the crown and to the pope. They also appealed to the Dominicans for help. A famous Dominican, Bartolome de las Casas wrote a lengthy treatise on why proseletyzing to the Indians as immoral and bad methodology. Being a very good theologian he was able to present the Franciscan and Dominican concern to the Crown and the Pope. The forced conversions were ordered to stop. But the real conversions never stopped. Eventually almost every single native in South America became Catholic thanks to the charity of the Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, and later the Daughters of Charity, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Carmelites.

It is bad theology to say that the Jews and Muslims are not included in the new covenant. It is also bad theology to deny that they have a place of honor in salvation history. This was confirmed by popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. I may be mistaken, but I think that the Cardinal has simply worked within the parameters of the past and the belief os the current popes regardin Judaism and Islam. He has been very kind to them. He has opened many doors of dialogue and support between us. There have been significant achievements. The Jews are one of the few people who are not throwing stones at the Catholic Church or at the pope over the sex abuse scandal. They acknowledge the mistakes, but also acknowledge that there is an witch-hunt out there. This is great. They have rarely sided with us on too many things.

The Jews, Muslims and Catholics now work cooperatively at the University of Jerusalem in the theology department. In Jordan a new Catholic University of Pontifical Right has been opened. It is the first Vatican and Muslim run university in the world with a joint faculty of Catholic and Islamic theologians, approved by Pope Benedict XVI as a Pontifical University.

Men like the Cardinal have been the brokers in these alliances. This is progress. You can’t build a communion of faith without trust.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Thank you JR,

First, (and this is in regards to Soutane’s pst) proselytizing is not forced conversion any more than evangelization is: I never equated proselytizing with state mandated conversions and forced conversions (conversion due to duress). The Church has never believed in forced conversions.

Second, I thank you JR for the education here. I had wrongly assumed that the award was issued for maintenance of a complete and total ban on Christian evangelization or proselytizing. I am a great fan of St. Francis’ teaching in regards to preaching with living. As you have noted, this model is always the best for bringing about true conversions.

Last, I wasn’t aware of the presence and work of the Friars in the Holy Land. That’s comforting and I sincerely hope their work is bearing fruit for them and the people around them.

You’re welcome. Having been born Jewish and converting at age 20, I can explain the other side of this coin. I attended Catholic schools all of my life, from K - my doctorate. From k-12 I attended Franciscan schools. That led me to find a Franciscan order when I decided to become a religious. What does this have to do with a milk shake? Nothing. But it has to do with Judaism.

When Jews hear the word proselytizing it sets off all kinds of red flags and bells. As we know, Jews have been oppressed for their refusal to give up their faith since the time of Abraham. Had it not been for the intervention of Franciscans and later the Dominicans too, the many Christians would have oppressed them in the name of proselytism. That’s why the word freaks them out.

Evangelization is a word that does not frighten the Jews, because it is one that we grew up with. We know that it means the Gospel It means some kind of preaching, even if we’re not familiar with how it happens, because of the different methods used by so many different Christian traditions. Jews may not like the idea, but it does not set off the alarm as does proselytism.

Yes, the Franciscans of the Holy Land, as they are called, are an independent unit of Franciscans who have been there since the end of the fifth crusade. The deal was made in 1223 or 1224, depending on which history book you read. It was between Francis and the Sultan in Egypt. The were many sultans then. Today they are kings. Egypt and Jordan always had a soft spot for the Franciscans and allowed them to pass unharmed.

It is interesting that Francis made this deal without the Church’s permission. “It is better to ask for forgiveness than to get permission.” :smiley: He was no dummy. Pope Honorius agreed to it upon Francis’ reporting it to him. But they had to wait a few years, because not all Muslims were as nice as the Sultan. There were many terrorists on the journey. There were many Catholics who were opposed to the idea as well and they too threatened the friars. Francis never saw the first group of brothers leave for the Holy Land. He died in 1226 and the brothers left on their mission a year later.

Today they run family service centers for Christians, Jews and Muslims; schools for the disabled; community building programs; and when there is an air strike the brothers gather the Jews, Chistians and Muslims who are attached to their ministry and go out to take care of those in need. What is most interesting is that they have sperad from Jerusalem to Jordan and Egypt. In those communities where the brothers are present, there is an absence of hostilities between the three groups. In fact the most hostile group toward the brothers are not Jews and Muslims. It’s the Eastern Orthodox.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Thank you, Brother Jr, for the clarification. As always, your posts are informative, and I look forward to hearing them everytime. :slight_smile:

This is probably more an apologetics question but anyway…

Is there an encyclical somewhere with this teaching, or is this dogma or something? :shrug:

Because she does believe that the covenant has been fulfilled and God has indeed saved Israel.

Can you point me to where this is taught in scripture? Oh, and also, what covenant are you referring to…?


The Church teaches and believes that the full inclusion of the Jews will come and is necessary for the fullness of Christ’s fullness to be achieved.

674 The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus. St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.” St. Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” The “full inclusion” of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of “the full number of the Gentiles”, will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”, in which “God may be all in all”.

The Church also reminds us that we are included in the covenant with Israel. Covenant was understood by the Jews and early Christians as the Law. That’s why St. James wrote this.

578 Jesus, Israel’s Messiah and therefore the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, was to fulfill the Law by keeping it in its all embracing detail - according to his own words, down to “the least of these commandments”. He is in fact the only one who could keep it perfectly. On their own admission the Jews were never able to observe the Law in its entirety without violating the least of its precepts. This is why every year on the Day of Atonement the children of Israel ask God’s forgiveness for their transgressions of the Law. The Law indeed makes up one inseparable whole, and St. James recalls, "Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it."

I hope this helps for starters. It’s not everything, but’s a beginning of what has been said on the subject.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

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