By Vatican News staff writer
Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has written to two Jewish leaders, addressing concerns about the Pope’s catechesis during a recent General Audience.
The Cardinal’s letter, written at the direction of Pope Francis, comes in response to Rabbi Rasson Arussi’s letter, dated 12 August, and Rabbi David Fox Sandmel’s letter, dated 24 August, in which they both referred to Pope Francis’ catechesis at the General Audience of 11 August, during which the Holy Father reflected on St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians (Gal 3, 19. 21 – 22).
Rabbi Rasson Arussi is the Chair of the Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel for Dialogue with the Holy See, while Rabbi David Fox Sandmel is the Senior Advisor on Interreligious Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The Torah is not devalued
Cardinal Koch explained that in the Holy Father’s address, “the Torah is not devalued,” as the Pope firmly affirms that St. Paul was not opposed to the Mosaic law. Indeed, he continued, “Paul observed this Law, emphasized its divine origin, and attributed to it a role in salvation history.” In this light, he said, the phrase, “The law does not give life, it does not offer the fulfillment of the promise” should not be extrapolated from its context, but must be “considered within the overall framework of Pauline Theology.”
He wrote, “The abiding Christian conviction is that Jesus Christ is the new way of salvation. However, this does not mean that the Torah is diminished or no longer recognized as the ‘way of salvation for Jews’.”
The Cardinal then pointed at Pope Francis’ audience with the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ) on 30 June 2015, when the Pope affirmed:
“The Christian confessions find their unity in Christ; Judaism finds its unity in the Torah. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh in the world; for Jews, the Word of God is present above all in the Torah. Both faith traditions find their foundation in the One God, the God of the Covenant, who reveals himself through his Word.”
Cardinal Koch also noted that the Holy Father, in his catechesis, “does not make any mention of modern Judaism,” rather, “the address is a reflection on Pauline theology within the historical context of a given era.” Thus, “the fact that the Torah is crucial for modern Judaism is not questioned in any way.”
Doctrinal differences do not hinder peaceful colloboration
Recalling Pope Francis’ constant positive affirmations on Judaism, the Cardinal went to assert that it cannot, in any way, be presumed that he is returning to a so-called “doctrine of contempt.”
The Holy Father, rather, “fully respects the foundations of Judaism and always seeks to deepen the bonds of friendship between the two faith traditions,” Cardinal Koch said.
He added that the Pope agrees with the content of the Jewish document “Between Jerusalem and Rome”, published in 2017, regarding the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, which stated that “the doctrinal differences are essential and cannot be debated or negotiated; their meaning and importance belong to the international deliberations of the respective faith communities…However, doctrinal differences do not and may not stand in the way of our peaceful collaboration for the betterment of our shared world and the lives of the children of Noah.”