Viewing cable 04VATICAN4205

04VATICAN42052004-11-02 10:55:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Vatican
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.