Promoting a Deeper Understanding between Christians and Jews

07/06/2013 9:03 am

Two Jewish men in chairs near the Western Wall

In the Catholic Church’s Cycle of Prayer after the Feast of Pentecost, we move into Ordinary Time. At this time of the year we’re encouraged to play our part in promoting a deeper understanding between Christians and Jews. The Church invites us to pray and think more seriously about what we share with the Jewish people and what Christians and Jews could do together.

Why the Church has a special time to reflect on her relationship with the Jewish people

At the Vatican Council the Church rediscovered her roots in Judaism and her bond with the Jewish people. Catholics are called to become more aware of the links between our two communities.

The greatest link is Jesus, himself a first-century Jew faithful to the Torah (God’s revealed law). Other links: the Word of God in the Bible; the idea of ‘God’s People’; worship and morality.

In the light of persecution and intolerance through the centuries culminating in the Shoah (‘Holocaust’), the Church recognises that Jews and Judaism have often been presented with prejudice and injustice.

Judaism has continued and developed since the birth of Christianity. Christians should be helped towards a respect for the Jewish people, and an appreciation of Judaism as a way to God.

Christians have a great love for the Holy Land. They must be encouraged to pray for peace and deepen their understanding of the situation in Israel. Views on policies within Israel should not hinder concern and prayer for Jews, nor prevent co-operation with them for the common good.

The relationship between Judaism and Christianity is of fundamental importance to the life of the Church.

Practical ideas for reflection

  • Organise some Bible study sessions.
  • Hold a course on some aspects of Judaism or on Jesus in his Jewish setting.
  • Ask the schools to hold an assembly on Judaism. Invite a member of the Jewish community to speak.
  • If you live near a synagogue, get to know the Rabbi. Invite him or her to speak to a parish group.
  • Include some books Judaism on your bookstall.

What to be aware of in the liturgy and when giving homilies

The Jewish roots of many Christian liturgical practices and feasts. For example: Passover and Easter; Shavout and Pentecost; Synagogue Service and Liturgy of the Word.

Jesus as a Jew of his time.

A proper presentation of the Pharisees from whom rabbinic Judaism developed.

The value of both the Old Testament and the New Testament readings.

Caution in approaching the confrontations between Jesus and the Jewish authorities related in the Gospels, being aware that their intensity sometimes reflects tensions at the later time when the Gospels were written.

The value of Judaism, both in the time of Jesus and now, so that Judaism is not presented as superseded or replaced by Christianity. “God does not repent of his promises” (cf Romans 11:29)
Special care during Advent to stress that we are all waiting for the final promises to be fulfilled , and during Lent and Easter that the old charge or ‘decide’ is not made or even implied.


Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant.
Good Friday liturgy

O God, help us to respect and love your people the Jews.
To pray for them and their needs, and to work with them to further your kingdom.

Nostra Aetate Downloads

Nostra Aetate - Section 4 367.48 kB
The Vatican Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions

Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing Nostra Aetate 407.46 kB
Practical guidance and concrete suggestions for fraternal dialogue

Building on Nostra Aetate: Christian-Jewish Dialogue 433.86 kB
Cardinal Kurt Koch's lecture charting the historical developments in Catholic-Jewish dialogue made possible by the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate. Cardinal Koch is the Head of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews.

Web Resources

The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible
24 May 2001
Pontifical Biblical Commission

Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church
24 June 1985
Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews

We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah
16 March 1998
Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews

Jewish-Christian Relations website with a comprehensive resource section on Catholic/Jewish statements

This article takes modified text from a 2005 leaflet prepared by the Bishops' Conference Committee for Catholic-Jewish Relations.