An RCIA instructor told me that Pope John Paul II made it very clear we are not to proselytize Jews. Does that mean we are not to witness about the Gospel to Jewish people?
We shouldn’t proselytise anyone. What we should do, however, is evangelise them. I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to share the gospel with EVERYONE. Anyway, I think the misunderstanding is in terms. I have a Muslim friend I regularly talk to about Christianity. Neither of us try to force one another to convert. As Saint Bernadette said “My job is to inform, not to convince”.
I don’t know which popes have spoken on this, but here’s a very recent story (December 2015) involving Pope Francis: religionnews.com/2015/12/10/vatican-catholic-jews-jewish-anti-semitism/
You can read the actual document here: vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/relations-jews-docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20151210_ebraismo-nostra-aetate_en.html
Of course Catholics should proselytize Jews; we should proselytize all non-Catholics.
Okay, we need to get out terminology straight here.
We are called to evangelize everyone, however…
Proselytism actually involves coercion and may include the use of force which we are specifically taught not to do.
There is a huge difference.
At the moment (due primarily to the Nazis) the Church does not send official missions to evangelize the Jews (as a nation of people). If the Church did, then the Jews would consider it an attempt at “genocide” by the Church.
Evangelization is historically done one of two ways:
organized/official Church missions to the nations (like the Apostles did and like the Religious orders did in the Americas and how they currently do it in Africa and Asia)
one on one.
The Church has unofficially suspended #1 regarding the Jews. Not #2.
We are all called to preach the Gospel to everyone… Our individual calling has not changed.
Furthermore, Israel has a very broad definition of “Proselytism,” which is illegal there when Jews are targeted. Any organized mission to evangelize Jews in Israel would be consider “Proselytism” which would break the law.
Therefore, we rely on #2 mentioned above for our Jewish friends AND we pray that God will show them mercy.
I pray this helps.
I think the issue is one of terminology. Many clergy and instructors these days make a distinction between evangelization and proselytism, the latter (as Church Militant points out) often carrying an unfortunate connotation of “coercion”.
I see. I have never been “up to date” with the connotations attached to words over time. Thank you for clearing that up.
Linguistic drift keeps catching me unawares, too. I guess we’re in the same boat.
However, it cannot be denied that there are some who go too far and say that the Church should totally cease and desist from evangelizing the Jewish people, usually using some form of “dual covenant” theology as their justification. While I find the idea interesting as a theological speculation, it is hard to square with Scripture or Tradition.
No. It has been forbidden to in any way have organised mission work that institutionally seeks to convert Jews to Catholicism. This is not simply a matter of linguistic. This is the fruition of Nostra Aetate.
This is articulated by the Holy See in The Gifts of God and the Calling of God are Irrevocable
*40. It is easy to understand that the so–called ‘mission to the Jews’ is a very delicate and sensitive matter for Jews because, in their eyes, it involves the very existence of the Jewish people. This question also proves to be awkward for Christians, because for them the universal salvific significance of Jesus Christ and consequently the universal mission of the Church are of fundamental importance. The Church is therefore obliged to view evangelisation to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views. In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews. While there is a principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission, Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews, although they should do so in a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God’s Word, and particularly in view of the great tragedy of the Shoah. *
Many thanks for all your wonderful answers, now I understand.
excellent point, well stated.