Vatican Update [APR. 28, 1999] Catholic World News Service

VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- In his regular Wednesday audience on April 28, Pope John Paul II said that inter-religious dialogue particularly with Jewish people involves a special challenge to the Christian conscience.

Speaking to an audience of 20,000 people in St. Peter's Square, the Pontiff observed that relations between Christians and Jews have been marked by difficulties, "from the first days of the Church about until today." On the other hand, he noted, there have been noteworthy moments of "peaceful and constructive dialogue." He mentioned his own visit to a synagogue in Rome in 1986, and the recent Vatican publication reflecting on the Holocaust.

Among the things that Christians and Jews share in common, the Pope said, the most important is "a large part of the history of salvation" as represented in the Old Testament. Although Christians must interpret the Hebrew Scriptures differently, in light of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, the stories of God's relations with his people remain the same.

Also, the Holy Father continued, Christians and Jews share "the common duty to protect the sanctity of human life in all forms and the defend the dignity of each brother and sister."

Finally, John Paul noted that the Catholic Church has derived much of her liturgical treasure from the Jewish tradition. He pointed to the scriptural basis for Eucharistic prayers, and the Psalms used especially in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Today, the Pope concluded, dialogue with Jews requires that Christians be "more conscious of the facts that bring us together." As for the "sad events and tragedies of the past," he said, the dialogue should now point toward the complete elimination of "the bad seed of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism."