NEWSLETTER No. 62 – June/July 2005


Christian & Jewish


The world ponders the directions of outreach under a new Pope
Jewish statement on the election of Pope Benedict XVI
In Memoriam

Around the World
Mary Boys heading for Australia
International Inter-Religious Abraham Conference
Previous issue

The world ponders the directions of outreach under a new Pope

The vital path of cementing interfaith relations and outreach from one faith to another, so dramatically undertaken by the late Pope John Paul II, is reflected in his successor?s demonstrable commitment to continuing the important work of bridge-building to the Jewish people.

Pope Benedict XVI?s decision to reaffirm all the positions of his predecessor may not meet with favour in some circles, according to International Council of Christians and Jews past international president, Rabbi David Rosen. .He believes however that one of the few issues on which virtually the whole Catholic Church from left to right is in accord is the importance of the Catholic-Jewish relationship, which Pope John Paul II described as “”unique and incomparable to any other because the Jewish People and its Faith are the very roots of Christianity.””

Before his elevation to the papacy, the then Cardinal Ratzinger confirmed his positive stance toward the Jewish people in “”Abraham Our Father”published in the Vatican publication Osservatore Romano. He wrote it in the wake of widespread Jewish discomfort over his declaration ””Dominus Iesus”affirming the theological supremacy of the Catholic Church. In the article, Cardinal Ratzinger sought to emphasise the unique relationship that the Church has with Judaism.

The opening remarks of a keynote address which he gave to a 1994 international Jewish-Christian conference in Jerusalem were: “”The history of relations between Israel and Christianity is filled with blood and tears. After Auschwitz, the mission of reconciliation and acceptance cannot be delayed.””

Rabbi Rosen contends that this sentiment was also reflected in the new Pope?s introduction to the important publication of the Pontifical Biblical Commission on the subject of “”The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible””.

He adds that , in addition to affirming the Jewish people's special status as “”elder brother”(using Pope John Paul II 's phrase), giving them a “”unique place among all other religions,”the document included a remarkable clause in the passage dealing with eschatological expectations, declaring that “”the Jewish messianic expectation is not in vain.””

?As far as the Christian-Jewish relationship is concerned, not only may we be assured of a reaffirmation of the positions taken by Pope John Paul II, we may look forward to continued positive developments during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI”? Rabbi Rosen concluded.

The recently elected pontiff is has been described by the World Jewish Congress as ?the architect of the policy that John Paul II fulfilled with regard to relations with the Jews.”

He authorised the publication of ?The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible,” a revolutionary and positive theological explanation for the Jews? rejection of Jesus as the Messiah which included the statement ?the Jewish messianic wait is not in vain.” He worked on ?Memory And Reconciliation: the Church and the Faults Of The Past,” in which the Church outlined its historical ?errors” of its treatment of Jews.

Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, was for over two decades the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II. He is the author of Spirit of the Liturgy, Salt of the Earth, Introduction to Christianity, God and the World, Milestones, Called to Communion, God Is Near Us, and many other works published by Ignatius Press

Jewish statement on the election of Pope Benedict XVI

From the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern New Jersey

The Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey are partners with the Diocese of Camden in creating and co-sponsoring the Catholic-Jewish Commission of Southern New Jersey. On behalf of the Jewish community we extend our warm wishes to our Catholic friends and neighbors on the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

The election of Pope Benedict XVI, the first Pope to be elected in the 21st century, is an important milestone for the Catholic faith and communities worldwide.

The spirit and legacy of Pope John Paul II has paved a very warm, positive, relationship between Catholic and Jewish people. Pope John Paul II was a tireless advocate for opening an honest dialogue between communities, and under his guidance, the Catholic and Jewish communities have enjoyed a fruitful, harmonious and productive relationship. We look to continued warm interfaith dialogue under the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI.

As Prelate of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Benedict XVI has a distinguished record in Catholic-Jewish relations. He has been described by the World Jewish Congress as ?the architect of the policy that John Paul II fulfilled with regard to relations with the Jews.”

He authorized the publication of ?The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible,” a revolutionary and positive theological explanation for the Jews? rejection of Jesus as the Messiah which included the statement ?the Jewish messianic wait is not in vain.” He worked on ?Memory And Reconciliation: the Church and the Faults Of The Past,” in which the Church outlined its historical ?errors” of its treatment of Jews.

We hope that the pope will continue the advances made by the Church in addressing the Holocaust, in its statements that anti-Semitism is a sin against God, and in its affirmation of the right of the Jewish people to their homeland in Israel.

We look forward to continued advances on the international, national and local levels in the historic deep and meaningful spiritual closeness that has developed between Catholics and Jews since Nostra Aetate at Vatican II in 1965.        Alan Respler, Executive Director, JCRC


The constraints on the work of the Australian Council of Christians and Jews and indeed on all its State member Councils are replicated on the international scene within the domain of interfaith dialogue undertakings. Their initiatives are being muzzled at every turn for lack of financial resources. That untold numbers of worthwhile projects and well-intentioned concepts have had to be shelved only to become faded entries in countless committee meeting minutes is becoming an all too regular occurrence. All such organisations are having to adjust the scope of their activities to limited aims to ensure their end-of-year accounts are kept from crimson ink.

If this unsatisfactory sate of affairs is to continue to be the order of the day, then the future outlook is bleak indeed. If the work of bringing greater understanding and harmony to a segmented society, suffering from the results of centuries of misunderstandings and misteachings is to burgeon ? as transparently it is being tasked to do ? then a solution to its funding needs must be found.

However, before rushing to the automatic assumption that the only responsibility for such support lies with government, strenuous efforts will need to be the order of the day to lobby the many trusts and charitable foundations, many of which are established to support just such endeavours as are embraced by the Council?s aims and objectives.

If we want to swim with the mainstream of the world of interfaith relations we must find the funds to keep us afloat.

Otherwise we will sink.

CCJ member organisations world wide over the past five decades have been successfully engaged in the historic renewal of Jewish-Christian relations. Founded as a reaction to the Holocaust in the awareness that ways must be found to examine the deeply engrained roots of mistrust, hatred and fear that culminated in one of the worst evils in human history, theologians and educators, the Council's work has become a vital cog in the efforts to understand the 'other'. Your help is vital, so please consider joining these efforts by your membership support.

Email address:

Why not join today?

Council mourns the death of one of its
founding patrons

Dr Davis McCaughey AC who died at the age of 90 in March of this year was for many years a staunch proponent of interfaith dialogue and religious outreach. In a distinguished career spanning over three quarters of a century, Dr. McCaughey served as Governor of the State of Victoria from 1986 to 1992. As one of Austalia?s most prominent theologians, he was master of Ormond College at the University of Melbourne and inaugural president of the Uniting Church in Australia.

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 12, 1914, John Davis McCaughey came to Australia in 1953 to be Professor of New Testament Studies for the Theological Hall at Ormond College.

He was the primary author behind the Basis of Union, the foundational theological document that led to the formation of the new denomination and president of the first assembly of the Uniting Church from 1977 to 1979.

His widow, Mrs. Jean McCaughey, responding to the Council?s message of condolence said how much the late Davis McCaughey?s membership of the Victorian Council meant to him.

Interfaith relations recognized in
Queen?s Birthday Honours

Several prominent personalities whose contribution to the work of interfaith relations and dialogue have made a considerable impact featured in the 2005 Queen?s Birthday Honours List.

Headed by Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell who received the highest award of a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) the list also featured an AM for recently retired head of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Jeremy Jones and OAM awards for Perth?s Rabbi David Freilich and Sr. Shirley Sedawie NDS.

A retired honourary life member of the NSW Council of Christians and Jews, the Salvation Army?s Major Gerben Stelstra was honoured posthumously.

A long-time resident of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Major Stelstra was born in Holland in 1922 into a distinguished legal family, with devout allegiance to the Dutch Reform Church. After the outbreak of war he joined the Dutch Resistance and in its aftermath he served as an interpreter with the British Army of the Rhine. A qualified accountant and economist and speaker of 11 languages, he joined the Salvation Army in 1948.

What is not as generally well known is that Gerben Stelstra was named a Righteous Among Nations for his efforts in saving countless Jews from the Nazis in war time Holland. Major Stelstra died last year after prolonged periods of illness.

Around the World

Victorian CCJ explores art in Christianity, Judaism and Islam through the Ages.

The Panel function in conjunction with the Jewish Museum of Australia earlier this month was chaired by art educator, Dr. Irene Barberie who is the artist/curator of ?Intersections ? reading the space Christianity, Judaism, Islam” exhibition currently on view at the Museum..

The evening?s lively discussion was promoted by the other panel members, art educator and art historian, Sr. Rosemary Crumlin, Dr. Alan Day whose main field of research is Islamic Aesthetics. Dr. Day is a lecturer in the ?Sense of Islam” series. The third panel member was the Jewish Museum?s director and president of Museums Australia, Dr. Helen Light. The audience adjourned after the panel discussion to view the Museum?s ?Intersections” exhibition.

World churches' leader seeking progress
in talks with the Pope

World Council of Churches' leader the Rev. Samuel Kobia says he will look for concrete steps to promote Christian unity on issues such as the sharing of Communion and joint action on poverty and AIDS during his meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican this month.

Peaceful coexistence is aim of world churches' inter-faith gathering

Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and other religious leaders gathered in Geneva earlier this month at the invitation of the World Council of Churches which says it hopes the meeting will have provided a new impetus to inter-religious dialogue. “”The question is no longer why do we need dialogue but rather how do we transform dialogue into peaceful coexistence; how do we translate dialogue into common action?”said WCC moderator Catholicos Aram I of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He urged the world's religions to exercise moral leadership, against the background of an ””unholy alliance”between religion and violence. “”Violence for some in the form of terrorism and for others as legitimate war has been justified in the name of religion.

He feels helpless as young people adopt fundamentalist religious beliefs or consumer-oriented secularism. “”I live in the Middle East, a place that is so volatile,”Rabbi Naamah Kelman said to more than 120 Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Zoroastrian and other religious leaders at the gathering of religious leaders hosted in Geneva by the World Council of Churches.

Religious minorities look to inter-faith dialogue

Inter-faith dialogue is ever more crucial especially for religious minorities, in an increasingly violent, intolerant and globalised world, says Bishop Samuel Azariah from Pakistan, where Christians account for less than 3 per cent of the predominantly Muslim population. “”As a religious minority, we did experience a backlash as a reaction to the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine,”said Azariah, who heads the Church of Pakistan in a country where Christians have experienced several violent attacks in recent years.

Israeli scientists grow palm from seed of biblical times

Israeli researchers have grown an extinct date palm from around the time of Jesus in a world first that they hope will help with research into natural medicines used in biblical times. ””The trees that were here in ancient times have been lost to us. Through this tree, we might be able to recreate the forests of the ancient world,”said Yuval Cohen, an Israeli botanist conducting DNA tests from the palm's leaves. The palm was grown from a date seed among those found in an archaeological dig at the desert fortress of Masada. Carbon tests have dated it to between 35 BC to AD 65, just before the Roman conquest of Jerusalem

Promote justice along with other faiths says
Reformed Christian leader

Christians need to collaborate with other faiths in promoting social justice but they may be impeded in this task because of divisive mission activities in the past, the general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Rev. Setri Nyomi, has warned. “”Today Christian mission can be found in the leadership of churches joining hands with Muslim and Jewish leaders,”Nyomi noted in a speech made in Edmonton, Canada to mark his acceptance of an award for service on the cutting edge of mission.

US Christians in Israel to show solidarity with
Gaza settlers

Baptist ministers from the United States have joined American-Jewish leaders on a mission to the Gaza Strip to strengthen the resolve of Jewish settlers planning to resist evacuation from their homes this August under Israel's Gaza withdrawal plan. The delegation arrived this week for a four-day mission during which they spent time with Jewish settlers in the southern Gaza Strip where the visit coincided with mortar and rocket attacks by Palestinian militants

4th International Inter-Religious Abraham Conference examines “”Beyond Dialogue: Interfaith Cooperation in Action””

A milestone undertaking to examine the future of interfaith co-operation took place in the University of Sydney?s McLauren Hall earlier in June. Hosted by the Affinity Intercultural Foundation and the Sydney Catholic Archdioceses, the Columbian Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations, the Synod of the Uniting Church NSW, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the University of Western Sydney. The conference was addressed by keynote speaker, Rev Dr Francis Tiso, Associate Director, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, United States Catholic Bishops' conference

Apart from the main lecture, the conference operated in three panels, the first dealing with Religious and Moral Values in a Consumer Society  consisted of Haset Sali, Rev Dr Clive Pearson, Rabbi John Levi; the second one with Well-being of the Individual in our Society (Mrs Hanan Dover, Rev Dr Gerard Hall SM, Prof Maurice Eisenbruch) while the third panel considered Interfaith Co-operation in Education: Dynamics of understanding the 'other'.

The principal conference panels, which met in the afternoon and were attended by over 300 representatives of the three faiths, were spearheaded by Cardinal George Pell, Rabbi John Levi and Sheikh Fehmi Naji el-Imam.

The impact of the Christian-Jewish encounter on Christian self-understanding

WCC joins Council of Christians and Jews Theology Committee and other bodies to study and report on

Since its inception in 1948, the World Council of Churches has maintained Jewish-Christian dialogue as an ongoing concern and programmatic commitment. The WCC has addressed has sponsored several consultations over the years, which have addressed societal relations as well as issues central to the Jewish-Christian relationship.

These have included anti-Semitism, the Land of Israel, the theological meaning of Covenant, Gospel and Torah. Various departments of the WCC have sponsored consultations on economic, ecological, gender and other important current issues to which Jewish participants have been invited. In 1982 the WCC published a document entitled ?Ecumenical considerations for Jewish-Christian dialogue” and in 1992 a policy paper on the Jewish-Christian dialogue. The organisation has also attempted to extend the dialogue to Asia and Africa, as well as to mediate discussions between Jews and Arabs.

In the context of these various dialogues, the issue of how the new understanding of the Christian-Jewish relationship might impact on Christian self-understanding has arisen. To date this question has, however, only been addressed sporadically. Recently an effort has been developed between the Desk on Jewish-Christian Relations of the WCC?s Office on Interreligious Dialogue and Relations and its Faith & Order Commission in which the Vatican holds membership. The purpose here is to pursue this question in a more comprehensive and systematic way.

In the belief that the time has come to take up this question in a comprehensive fashion that would involve all branches of the Christian community, the WCC has joined the Theology Committee of the International Council of Christians and Jews, the Catholic-Jewish Studies Program in the Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Centre at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian relations in Cambridge, UK. The aim is to sponsor an initial exploratory consultation to develop a multi-year consultation of scholars by selecting the themes to be considered in the course of this long term consultation and the method in which the work ought to be pursued.

The first of these consultations took place in London late last year, attended by 15 leading Christian scholars, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox and two Jewish consultants.

This is aimed to lead to a position paper for a wider international gathering of Christian theologians. Out of such a gathering would emerge a document to be presented for further reflection to Faith & Order, the Vatican and other relevant ecclesiastical bodies.

It is hoped that out of that will develop a similar Jewish consultation, attended by two Christian consultants. The WCC is quoted as saying that as considerations progress, further information will be released during the latter half of 2005.

Not yet a member of the Council of Christians and Jews?
Why not join today:
please see membership applications for
New South Wales

Mary Boys heading to Australia

Skinner & McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology at Union Theological Seminary, NY, Professor Mary Boys will visit Australia in August as the guest of the Order of Sisters of Sion.

Among the numerous speaking engagements she is fulfilling while in Sydney and Melbourne, is a Day for Teachers function organised by the Catholic Archdiocesan Commission for Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations at Sydney?s Polding Centre (10 am ? 2.00 pm) on August 26 which will address issues in presenting Judaism to students and the religion syllabus. It will also be open to a broader audience.

On Monday August 29 she will deliver the Polding lecture at in the Brennan Hall of St John?s College, Camperdown at 7.30 pm on: the ?Death of Jesus and Christian-Jewish Relations: Redeeming Our Sacred Story from Sacriligious Uses?. She will also talk about her book: Has God Only One Blessing? This will be followed on the next day August 30 by her being the special guest at a Cocktail reception for the NSW CCJ?s sponsoring bodies and founders. This is scheduled to take place at Mandelbaum House at 7.00 pm.

On August 31st she will travel to Melbourne for a full programme including sessions with Sion College, Box Hill students, the Victorian Council of Christians and Jews and the Catholic University. She is due to leave Australia on Setptember 9.

A native of Seattle, Washington, Mary Boys has been the Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York City since 1994. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to her present appointment, she served for seventeen years on the faculty of Boston College.

Boys is the author of four books: Biblical Interpretation in Religious Education (1980), Educating in Faith: Maps and Visions (1989), Jewish-Christian Dialogue: One Woman?s Experience (1997), and Has God Only One Blessing? Judaism as a Source of Christian Self-Understanding (2000).

Her edited books include the recently released Seeing Judaism Anew: A Sacred Obligation of Christians. She has also published some seventy articles in books and journals such as Concilium, Horizons, Religious Education, Biblical Theology Bulletin, Cross Currents, SIDIC, and the Journal of Ecumenical Studies.

Among her impressive background are such involvements as membership of the editorial boards of the Studies in Jewish-Christian Relations, Journal of Religious Education (Australia), Teaching Theology and Religion, and Religious Education. Boys served as co-director of the Lilly Endowment-sponsored “”Religious Particularism and Pluralism”project that involved Jewish and Catholic educators and academics. She is a member of the boards of the Tanenbaum Foundation for Interreligious Understanding, the Suenens Foundation and the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education. She also serves on the advisory committee for the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Catholic Bishops.

Mary Boys received her master's and doctoral degrees from Columbia University in a joint program with Union Theological Seminary, and has done advanced study at the Ecumenical Institute for Theological Research in Jerusalem, Israel. She is also the recipient of the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Among her visiting lectureships, she lists Princeton Theological Seminary, Claremont School of Theology, John Carroll University, Villanova University, and St. Mary's College (London, England). She has been a Lilly Research Fellow and is a Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology for 2005.

She has been a member, since 1965, of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, a congregation of Roman Catholic women.

Previous issue of Christian & Jewish SCENE