Celebrating 40 years of dialogue, Catholics and Jews commit to defending religious freedom
By Alan Holdren
Cardinal Kurt Koch
Cardinal Kurt Koch

.- Catholics and Jews share “joint responsibility” to work together to fight religious bigotry and promote “justice and solidarity, reconciliation and peace,” according to the Vatican’s top ecumenist.

Cardinal Kurt Koch made his remarks during a Feb. 27-March 2 meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee for Interreligious Consultation. He is president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism.

Cardinal Koch called on both religions to promote the defense of religious rights, according to a report by the Italian bishops' SIR news agency.

Catholics and Jews should work together for “religious freedom and human rights to be fully guaranteed to everyone, anywhere in the world,” he said.

Cardinal Koch spoke against the targeting of Christians for persecution and murder in the Middle East. As the “most widely persecuted group in the world,” Christians need religious leaders of all the world's religions to join in efforts for protection and solidarity, he said.

“Jews and Christians can raise their voices together to protect those who are persecuted for religious reasons, wherever they live and whatever religious tradition they profess.”

The Vatican consultation marked the 40th year of official dialogue between the Church and the Jewish people.

Cardinal Koch praised the “huge miracle” of their continued cooperation as “the fruit of the Holy Spirit.”

“I have the feeling that over these last 40 years many prejudices and hostilities have been overcome, that reconciliation and cooperation have increased, and that relations of personal friendship have grown more intense,” he said.

This relationship means the two sides share challenges for the future, he said.

In a joint statement issued by the Vatican March 2, the committee declared “a shared desire to confront together the enormous challenges facing Catholics and Jews in a world in rapid and unpredictable transformation.”

According to the statement, conference participants expressed their “profound sadness” at repeated acts of violence or terrorism in God's name.

The conference also acknowledged the ongoing events “taking place in parts of Northern Africa and the Middle East where millions of human beings are expressing their thirst for dignity and freedom. In many parts of the world, minorities, especially religious minorities, are discriminated against, threatened by unjust restrictions of their religious liberty, and even subjected to persecution and murder.”

Speakers at the meeting expressed a “profound sadness at repeated instances of violence or terrorism 'in the name of God', including the increased attacks against Christians, and calls for the destruction of the State of Israel,” according to the statement.

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