Cordoba, Jun. 08, 2005 (CNA) - Both Jews and Christians must have a clear understanding of history in order to advance in their relationship and ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust are not repeated, said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver.
The archbishop was speaking at a conference on anti-Semitism in Cordoba, Spain, June 8. The conference was held as a simultaneous event to the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The archbishop said Catholics are concerned about the Holocaust as the “central human tragedy of our time” and as “a religious catastrophe in which millions of people who claimed to be Christians enabled, colluded in or ignored mass murder.
“Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has called on Catholics to examine and purify their memories of history; to reconnect with the Jewish roots of their faith and, where possible, to seek to repair relations with the Jewish people,” he said.
But in order to repair relations and prevent future occurrences, people must have a clear understanding of history, he continued. The problem, he said, is that most people don’t
“Americans have no memory,” he said. “American students have a very poor grasp of history, and American Catholics can sometimes be among the worst.
“No one can really repent, really change, or really find hope without a memory. It does no good to repent of the past if we don’t understand history’s real events and their context,” he said.
The archbishop also warned against Christians and Jews against “laundering” or “blackening” historical records to either evade or enhance historical truth.
Archbishop Chaput also made reference to the contentious issue about the role Pope Pius XII played during the Second World War. Some historians have argued that the Pope had enabled the Holocaust by not condemning it publicly.
“Reflecting on the Holocaust will be a long process, which is why Catholics and Jews will have issues of serious disagreement, like the legacy of Pius XII, for many years to come,” he said.
He commented on Arthur Hertzberg’s May 14 New York Times article on “the Vatican’s sin of omission,” calling the article “unfortunate and unhelpful.”
The archbishop also spoke of the value of the “Bearing Witness” program and how dozens of the principals and teachers in Denver’s Catholic schools have adapted it to the classroom in the last four years.
The program is important not just for the content but for “the process of cooperation and mutual understanding that it requires,” he said.