Cablegate: Vatican, Sant'egidio Promote Jewish-Christian

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) Vatican 3581; B) Vatican 3070; C) Vatican 1471; D)
Vatican 1302


1. (SBU) The Holy See and the Vatican-affiliated lay
community Sant'Egidio are actively promoting Christian-
Jewish dialogue and initiatives to combat anti-Semitism.
In October, delegations from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel
and the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with
the Jews met near Rome and issued a joint statement
emphasizing their partnership and the sacred character of
Jerusalem. With Vatican support, the Pontifical Gregorian
University is supplementing its already robust course
offerings on Judaism and religious dialogue with an evening
lecture series open to the public on Christian-Jewish
relations. Sant'Egidio held what has become an annual
march commemorating the expulsion of the Jews from Rome
during WWII, and continues to promote inter-religious
reconciliation in other venues, often including Muslims.
The significant overlap between the goals of these
initiatives and the USG's anti-Semitism and religious-
tolerance goals offer opportunities for expanded
collaboration with the Holy See and Sant'Egidio. End

Vatican, Jewish Delegations Meet for Dialogue

2. (U) Delegations from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, led
by Rabbi Shar Yishuv Cohen, and the Holy See's Commission
for Religious Relations with the Jews, headed by Cardinal
Jorge Mejia, met for three days of meetings and dialogue
October 17-19 near Rome. Participants discussed "A Common
Vision of Social Justice and Ethical Behavior" as part of
an ongoing program established in 2002 between Catholic and
Jewish authorities to find common ground on issues of
mutual concern. This year's session coincided with the
30th anniversary of the establishment of the Holy See's
Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

Catholics, Jews are "Unequivocal Partners"

3. (U) In a joint statement released after the conference
(complete text emailed to EUR/WE and EUR/OHI) delegates
said there was insufficient awareness in the Catholic and
Jewish communities of "the momentous change" that has taken
place in the relationship between the two peoples. "We are
not enemies," the statement continued, "but unequivocal
partners in articulating the essential moral values for the
survival and welfare of human society."

4. (U) The delegations also appealed for respect for
Jerusalem's sacred character, as well as for the various
religious communities in the Holy City. The document
encouraged religious authorities to "protest publicly when
actions of disrespect towards religious persons, symbols
and Holy Sites are committed." The six Catholic and six
Jewish participants specifically mentioned the desecration
of Jewish graves and an October 10 incident in which an
ultra-Orthodox Jewish student spat at a cross carried by
Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Nourhan Manougian during a
religious procession in Jerusalem's Old City.

Vatican Emphasizes Common Roots

5. (U) In statements on Vatican Radio, Fr. Norbert
Hofmann, Secretary of the Commission for Religious
Relations with the Jews and a 2004 Embassy Vatican IVP
recipient, said that in the wake of the Second Vatican
Council in the 1960s, Catholics are discovering the Jewish
roots of their faith. "Jesus was Jewish, the Mother of God
was Jewish, the apostles were Jews," he said. "Christianity
has Jewish roots and we are increasingly rediscovering what
we have in common."

Pontifical University Focuses on Judaism

6. (U) The Holy See's academic arms are also promoting
dialogue with Judaism. The Gregorian Pontifical University
offers several courses on Jewish thought and relations in
conjunction with the Cardinal Bea Center for Judaic
Studie. The Center was formally founded in 2001, ut has
origins dating to 1978. This year, the Gregorian is
offering a feature course opn to all Roman universities
and to the public on the Catholic Church and Judaism "from
Vatican II to today." In the first lecture -- held in
conjunction with the Chief Rabbinate delegaton's visit --
German Cardinal Walter Kasper and Rome's Chief Rabbi,
Ricardo Di Segni, analyzed the present state of Jewish-
Catholic dialogue. With Israel's Ambassador to the Holy
See in attendance, both sides discussed challenges in
relations, but concluded that significant progress had been
made in recent years. Rabbi Di Segni noted that
involvement of the Orthodox rabbinical world in official
dialogue with the Catholic Church "would have been
unthinkable only a few years ago." Now it is a reality.

Further Holocaust Education a Possibility

7. (SBU) Topics to be addressed by scholars and leading
churchmen during the course include the "sometimes tragic"
story of Christian-Jewish relations before Vatican II, the
effect of the Holocaust on inter-religious dialogue, and
the state of Holy SeeIsrael relations. Visiting EUR/OHI
Deputy Director Don Braum discussed with Fr. Hofmann the
possibility of a similar course or series of lectures
focused exclusively on the Holocaust. Though Hofmann is
not on the permanent staff at the Gregorian, he thought the
proposal would appeal to the directors of the program and
to the Bea Center.

Vatican Optimistic

8. (SBU) Hofmann was optimistic about Jewish-Catholic
relations, citing a conference in Buenos Aires in July at
which Catholic and Jewish participants performed community
service projects together. He said he was looking forward
to an Anti-Defamation League meeting on anti-Semitism in
Rome in December, and the next OSCE conference on the
topic, to be held in Cordoba, Spain in 2005. Braum briefed
Hofmann on the activities of the Task Force for
International Cooperation on Holocaust Education,
Remembrance and Research, and raised the possibility of
further opening the Vatican's archives for the period
concerning the Holocaust.

Sant'Egidio Deeply Involved

9. (SBU) Braum also exchanged views with officials from
the Vatican-affiliated Catholic lay organization
Sant'Egidio on anti-Semitism and Holocaust education. In
addition to Sant'Egidio's annual peace conferences (ref a)
that regularly feature panels on Jewish-Christian and
Jewish-Muslim dialogue, the group sponsors a separate
Jewish-Christian Dialogue Series that draws leaders from
both traditions. The next such event will be held in
December or January. Sant'Egidio also incorporates its
message of understanding into its work with the poor and
immigrants in Rome. Sant'Egidio's officials told Braum and
Poloff that a segment on Holocaust education has been
introduced to its free Italian language classes for recent
immigrants, many of whom are Muslim.

Holocaust Remembrance March

10. (U) Sant'Egidio organizes an annual march
commemorating the expulsion of the Jews from Rome by the
Nazis in 1943. This year's event brought together the
Catholic and Jewish communities, and included Muslim
participants. Several hundred people met at Sant'Egidio's
headquarters and, holding candles and carrying signs with
the names of Nazi concentration camps, marched to Rome's
Synagogue where they met members of the city's Jewish
community. Sant'Egidio founder Andrea Riccardi, along with
Rabbi Di Segni and other Jewish leaders, spoke of the need
to recall the horror of the deportation and to pass on its

lessons "from generation to generation." Members of Rome's
Muslim community, including some recent Palestinian
immigrants, also attended. The event attracted
considerable public attention, winding through the busy
Rome streets on a Saturday night. Sant'Egidio
representatives told us that each of its chapters worldwide
(there are 40,000 members in some 60 countries) now holds
an annual event to remember Holocaust victims.


11. (SBU) The Holy See's and Sant'Egidio's expanding focus
on Christian-Jewish dialogue, while not new for either,
reflects each group's desire to combat signs of rising
anti-Semitism and continue the positive evolution in
religious dialogue since Vatican II in the 1960's. Pope
John Paul II has built on Vatican II-era breakthroughs in
relations to forge new ties with Jews. Using the Pope's
focus on inter-religious dialogue of all types as a model,
Sant'Egidio has been extremely successful in bringing Jews,
Christians and Muslims together in dialogue. With
significant overlap between the goals of these initiatives
and those of the USG, meaningful opportunities exist for
collaboration with the Vatican and Sant'Egidio, including
in the promotion of Holocaust education, increased
attention to the root causes of the new anti-Semitism in
Europe, and encouragement of the Vatican to open up more of
its Holocaust-era archives to scholars.


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