London, England, March 31st - April 2nd, 1981


The 9th meeting of the International Liaison Committee between the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations and the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism took piace in London, England, March 31st - April 2nd, 1981.

The major points on the agenda included the presentation and discussion of two papers on "The Challenge of Secularism to our Religious Commitments ", delivered by Msgr. Pietro Rossano, Secretary of the Secretariat for Non-Christian Religions and consultant of the Vatican Commission, and Rabbi Dr. Nachum Rabinovitch, Principal of Jews' College, London.

Msgr. Rossano underlined the following points: Secularization is a historic process of western origin which tends to remove from society sacredness and the sense of the religious. There are several patterns of secularization and different ways of reacting to and interpreting the same phenomena. The effects of secularization should not be assessed in a negative way only: it offers in fact more freedom towards an authentic expression of one's own religious identity. It can also be conducive to an atmosphere of dialogue and mutual cooperation, in which religious traditions, particularly Judaism and Christianity, can and should cooperate for the promotion of common values. Msgr. Rossano pointed out that the speech by the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Dr. Elio Toaff, on the occasion of his meeting with the Pope, de­serves serious consideration.

Rabbi Rabinovitch said in his paper that " religion needs to cultivate not only love of God but also love of kindness. Religion needs to speak not with authority but with humility. Then it will be heard — Surely in all these areas, all believers can cooperate, why not join research into social, economic and ethical problems? Why not united efforts to deal with food distribution and famine? Why not a combined compaign to promote peace studies? To quote David's words:

`In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and I have seen thy people offering freely and joyously to Thee.'

 If we set the example, it will be followed."

The discussion which followed engaged the participants in an analysis of both papers clarifying the understanding of major concepts in Judaism and Christianity. The delegates pointed out common problems facing both faith communities in today's world. The discussion centered on the crisis of traditional values, the impact on family life and the transmission of spiritual tradition to the new generations.

The agenda considered an exchange of information on educational initiatives being taken in both communities to further mutual understanding, and on anti-semitism and its present resurgence in different parts of the world; its causes and possible counteraction. Special attention was given to the meaning of the destruction of European Jewry during the Second World War and its proper pre­sentation in education. The meeting warned against pernicious revisions of the history of the Holocaust. The meeting discussed developments in the field of religious freedom focussing on the draft declaration on this subject recently adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights. The delegates pointed out similar perspectives in Jewish and Christian approaches to the question. Finally, an exchange of views and opinions followed on misrepresentations of Judaism and of Christianity in some Christian and Jewish writings.

Receptions in honour of the delegations were given by the World Jewish Congress and the International Council of Christian and Jews. Many of England's Jewish and Christian religious leaders participated, among them His Eminence Cardinal George Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster and the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Dr. Imma­nuel Jakobovits.

The group experienced a gratifying spirit of frankness and trust on both sides in confronting together the sensitive issues raised.