Catholic-Jewish relations still OK in Canada

  • February 2, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Catholic-Jewish relations are stronger than ever in the wake of statements by Society of St. Pius X Bishop Richard Williamson denying the Nazi murder of six million Jews during the Second World War, Canadian Jewish Congress co-president Rabbi Reuven Bulka has told The Catholic Register.

Following a Jan. 30 meeting with papal nuncio to Canada Archbishop Luigi Ventura, Bulka said there was no question of a breech in Catholic-Jewish dialogue in Canada.

"Dialogue is a question of friendship. The friendship is not in question," he said. "If anything, I would say the friendship is more strong."

British-born Williamson of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X has claimed that reports about the Holocaust were exaggerated and that no Jews died in Nazi gas chambers. He repeated his position in a Swedish television interview recorded last November but aired Jan. 21, the same day Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication against him and three other bishops who had been ordained against papal orders in 1988 by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.  

A Jan. 29 statement by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops disavowing Williamson's views and restating Catholic abhorrence of Holocaust denial and anti-Jewish rhetoric was "very encouraging and very much appreciated," said Bulka.

"The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops joins the Holy See in criticizing and rejecting the comments that Bishop Williamson has made on the Holocaust," said the bishops.

Bulka said the official dialogue between Christians and Jews would continue on both the Canadian and international levels.

"Even the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem, which was originally taken aback and horrified by this, I think that they're going to be working it out together with Vatican counterparts," said Bulka.

On Jan. 28 a representative of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel told an Israeli television station that meetings with the Vatican would be postponed "until a response comes from the Vatican that's satisfactory to enable us to resume our relationship as before."

That same day, the day after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Pope Benedict XVI said he hoped "the memory of the Holocaust will persuade humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man." He also said Jews were "innocent victims of a blind racist and religious hatred."

"We have come a tremendously long way from Vatican II to today," said Bulka. "Certainly on the critical issues of an appreciation of Jewish history... there is, shall we say, almost a total confluence. There is a deep appreciation, a friendship between the communities that is nothing short of remarkable."

Jewish representatives to Catholic-Jewish Dialogue also appreciate the distinction between lifting a ruling of excommunication on four Lefebvrist bishops and full communion with the church.

"We understand that it's not a full welcome," Bulka said. "It's not a green light. It's the removal of a red light. It is still a yellow light and we hope that the green light will not be extended unless and until all corrective measures have been taken with regard to this fellow."

(With files from Catholic News Service.)

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