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AIJAC congratulates Australian Catholics on “Powerful affirmation of friendship”

Mar 22, 2023 | AIJAC

L-R: Dr Michael Trainor, Sr Giovanni Farquer, Jeremy Jones
L-R: Dr Michael Trainor, Sr Giovanni Farquer, Jeremy Jones

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council congratulates the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference on the publication this week of “Walking Together: Catholics with Jews in the Australian Context.”

“Walking Together puts a mirror in front of contemporary Catholic-Jewish relations in Australia and reflects true friendship and a mutual thirst for greater understanding of the other,” Jeremy Jones AM, Director of Community and of International Affairs for AIJAC, said.

Mr Jones, who participated in the formal launch with the Vote of Thanks from the Jewish Community, in his capacity as Co-Chair of the Annual Conversations between the Bishops Conference and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), was thanked for his role in building this positive relationship by the event MC, Sister Giovanni Farquer.

Describing the document as “a cry from the heart and a call for action,” Mr Jones said it was evidence that “it is no exaggeration to describe the present era of Catholic-Jewish realties as a golden age,” where “meaningful contact and mutual respect” is at “unprecedented” levels.

At the launch, the President of the ECAJ, Jillian Segal, delivered an analysis and critique of the document, noting that it “affirms the essential Jewishness of Jesus and the fact that he prayed and worshipped as a Jew; the ongoing, irrevocable nature of the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people; and the fact that Jesus and the Pharisees were in alignment, not in opposition, to one another.”

Ms Segal praised the document but identified areas that needed to be addressed; the fact that contemporary antisemitism has borrowed anti-Jewish tropes with supposedly Christian religious motifs, and deploys these against Jews in new ways, particularly in relation to discourse about Israel, sometimes with lethal consequences; and that it used the word “Israel” only in the sense of a reference to the Jewish people and did not mention one of the seminal events in Catholic-Jewish relations over the last 30 years, namely the formal recognition of the State of Israel by the Vatican in 1993, nor the Papal visits to Israel by each of the past three Popes.

Teresa Pirola, delivering the Catholic response, also gave the document her overall approval but stressed, “the absence of any mention of Jewish links to the land of their ancestors, a theological factor that is intrinsic to Jewish identity and covenant, is a concern. How is it that, in 2023, we Catholics can readily affirm the belonging that First Nations Australians experience for Land, yet ignore the Jewish sense of belonging to Land which is every bit as spiritual and historical, and millennia-long?”

Ms Pirola concluded that the concerns flagged did not “diminish the enormous contribution ‘Walking Together‘ makes to Catholic-Jewish relations in Australia. It represents a significant step forward, and a timely one.”

Jeremy Jones said, “We must not underestimate the importance of this document, which articulates the current theological and practical state of our relationship.”

He concluded, “As important as it is to disseminate this excellent work, in multiple languages, throughout Australia, it is also very necessary to translate it into the languages most widely spoken in Asia and the Pacific, so not only Catholic communities that live alongside Jewish communities are guided by its messages and insights, but also those Catholic societies where a living encounter with contemporary Judaism is not feasible.”

L-R: Jeremy Jones, Bishop Robert Rabat, Bishop Amel Nona

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