Emeritus Pope Benedict

Press Release: A bad portent for the Catholic-Jewish dialogue?

The General Rabbinical Conference of Germany criticizes Cardinal Koch’s comments on the text “Grace and calling are without remorse” by emeritus Pope Benedict.

[Unofficial translation from German.]


“The current remarks of Cardinal Koch do not illuminate the position of the emeritus pope, but rather overshadow the Catholic-Jewish relationship,” said the president of the Allgemeine Rabbinerkonfrez Deutschlands (General Rabbinical Conference of Germany), Chief Rabbi em. Dr. h.c. Henry G. Brandt. On 2 August 2018, the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference of Germany (ORD) reached out to curial Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews; its letter asked Cardinal Koch why he says in his foreword that Benedict's "theological reflections should be brought into the future conversation between the Church and Israel" and that "the present contribution will enrich the Jewish-Catholic conversation.”

For the liberal-leaning General Rabbinical Conference of Germany (ARC), which currently links 29 rabbis, the reply of Cardinal Koch to this letter is inadequate, indeed strange. "If Cardinal Koch declares that Benedict is discussing basic beliefs of the Jewish-Christian dialogue in order to specify and differentiate them and so theologically deepen them, this reinforces the picture of the former pope as one who sees Judaism as deficient," Brandt points out. "Cardinal Koch's remarks give reason to fear that the dialogue is being conducted under false assumptions. From the Jewish side, the President of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews awakens so much mistrust toward himself and toward the Catholic Church.”

Rabbi Henry G. Brandt (born 1927) is considered a pioneer of the Jewish-Christian dialogue in Germany and has received many awards for his dedication. At the beginning of July members of the General Rabbinical Conference had criticized Benedict's text. The President of the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany, Rabbi Prof. Dr. Walter Homolka accused the emeritus pope of promoting a new antisemitism on a Christian basis and formulating "Christian identity at the expense of the Jewish one.” The Jewish President of the German Coordinating Council of the Societies for Christian-Jewish Cooperation, Rabbi Prof. Dr. Andreas Nachama stated that: "Anyone who thinks of the Jewish-Christian relationship in the categories of old and new, of excellence and substitution, carries on the legacy of centuries-old Christian anti-Judaism."