U.S. bishops issue publication on ‘The Bible, the Jews, and the Death of Jesus’

In the midst of the controversy posed by the upcoming release of Mel Gibson’s film surrounding its depiction of the Jewish people, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) published a collection of documents of Catholic teaching on the Church's relationship to the Jews and its opposition to anti-Semitism.

The 128-page collection, entitled "The Bible, the Jews and the Death of Jesus: A Collection of Catholic Documents", was released by the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. It includes the 1988 document "Criteria for the Evaluation of Dramatizations of the Passion."

This collection includes statements on Catholic teaching about the interpretation of Scripture, Catholic understanding and proper presentation of the Passion and death of Christ, and the Church's ongoing condemnation of the sin of anti-Semitism.

Stockton Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, chairman of the committee, said that "two major developments within the Church awakened and fostered a new understanding of the relationship between the Church and its roots in Judaism."

The first was the biblical movement, which promoted a re-reading of the Gospels in relation to the Jewish people "through analysis of literary and historical forms, in order to identify a fuller theological understanding," Bishop Blaire said.

The second development was at the Second Vatican Council, where the Church made the groundbreaking statement that "neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during the Passion" (Second Vatican Council, "Nostra Aetate" ["In Our Time"], # 4).

The Council also stated that "the Church … deplores all hatreds, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism leveled at any time or from any source against the Jews."

Bishop Blaire said that behind these statements was a wish "to understand better the salvation in Christ by seeing the unique place of Jews and of the Jewish religion in the unfolding of salvation."

The collection is intended to be useful for preachers and teachers, for parish-discussion groups, and for Catholic-Jewish dialogue groups.

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