Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Buenos Aires and Pope Francis embrace after visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem May 26, 2014. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Study examines Catholic views of Jews

  • March 3, 2022

Dr. John Cappucci strove to present over 2,000 years of history in Catholic-Jewish relations in under 75 minutes during a Feb. 24 webinar called “The Church and the Jews: A Complete 180.”

The principal and vice chancellor of Assumption University in Windsor, Ont. was the special guest lecturer of the monthly Roman Roadhouse speaker series organized by the Springbank Catholic Family of Parishes in the Diocese of London.

Beyond this event delivering a platform for Cappucci — also an associate professor and the Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chair in Religion and Conflict at Assumption — to demonstrate his scholarly expertise, it provided him an opportunity to promote a new research study he began in February.

This new project called “Old Tensions or New Relations: Canadian Catholic Views of Judaism” is the academic’s bid to gain a firm understanding about how constituents of a Catholic diocese currently feel about Jews and Judaism. He will collect data until June via an online survey.

“This question really has not been explored, particularly in a Canadian context,” Cappucci told The Catholic Register in an interview.

“The genesis of this study (was) to discover what the so-called average Catholic feels about Judaism and Jews.”

Each 18 and older Catholic of any rite who resides in the Diocese of London is invited to participate in the anonymous survey hosted on the Qualtrics platform. Many of the over 50 individuals who tuned into Cappucci’s seminar are eligible to participate. A direct link to the survey was shared in the Zoom chat.

This study is being launched in the 60th anniversary year of Vatican II opening in Rome. Cappucci’s favourite document from the three-year council is Nostra Aetate, proclaimed by Pope Paul VI on Oct. 28, 1965.

“It is a watershed in Catholic-Jewish relations,” Cappucci said during the webinar. “It is a very short document that basically rejected all the ideas the Church held about the Jews. The charge of deicide, the charge of blaming them for crucifixion, the charge of supersession — in other words that God cut His covenant with the Jews and is now favouring Christians. It also said Catholics must reject all forms of anti-Semitism.

“It is a document I hold close to my own heart. It has motivated me in my research and also my administrative work when I work with the Jewish community in Windsor.”

Nostra Aetate also alludes to the “spiritual patrimony” between Christians and Jews, and the Muslim faith, too, as Abraham is considered an example of faith for all three religions. “Old Tensions or New Relations: Canadian Catholic Views of Judaism” represents a full-circle moment for Cappucci’s research career as completing a Christian-perspective study complements his previous work about Judaism and Islam.

Webinar attendees learned about many highs and lows in the Catholic-Jewish relationship.

Modern positive moments, from Cappucci’s perspective, included Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to a Jewish synagogue in 1986 where he called the world’s Jews as “our elder brothers” and Pope Francis’ visits to Israel and Auschwitz.

Negative events or periods in Catholic-Jewish affairs outlined by Cappucci include the original charges of deicide and supersession, Jewish persecution during the Crusades and the Vatican concordat with fascist powers while Jews were targeted by these regimes.

Cappucci is examining closely two variables he thinks will influence how people answer the survey.

“They are the individual political party [the participant] affiliates within Canada, and the second is their essential religious orientation within Catholicism. In the survey, participants will be asked to share how they identify as Catholic, all the way from nominal to progressive to moderate to traditional and so on.”

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