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“The 33rd day of dialogue between Catholics and Jews in the name of listening”

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The day of dialogue between Catholics and Jews in January 2022 will be experienced by the Churches in Italy and by the Jewish community in the reflection of a passage from the prophet Jeremiah (29.10) “I will fulfill my good promise” contained in the so-called “Letter to the exiles “(Jer 29: 1-23).

It is desirable, as in Trieste, that this text be commented on by the Jewish and Catholic sides as “listening” to the Word both of the People of the First Covenant and of the People of the New Covenant as a sign of consolation in a time of “great tribulation” for the whole of humanity. The message that the prophet Jeremiah addresses to the exiles is to be able to grasp the present situation in its gravity, not losing heart but knowing how to work with tenacity in hope.

The Prophet asks to continue to cultivate the land, to marry and procreate (Jer 29: 5-6) even in this difficult situation. The “joint” reflection of the Hebrew-Catholic reading of Jeremiah’s text concretely offers us the opportunity to know how to “manage” the situations in which the whole of humanity can be found today and to face them with wise prudence so as to “melt swords into plows “(Is 2,4; Mich 4,3).

On the day of Jewish-Catholic dialogue, the Bishops of the local Churches, who are in Italy, intend to recall two forerunners of the dialogue between Jews and Catholics: Maria Vingiani and Jules Isaac, an Italian and a Frenchman. Both found in John XXIII, the “prophet” of ecumenism and dialogue with the Jews, who knew how to encourage them and wanted the Council to make a significant change in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people.

The undersigned had the opportunity to meet Maria Vingiani several times (born in Castellamare di Stabia, lived in Venice and Rome) also for the meetings that then led to the establishment of the SAE group in Trieste with the approval of Archbishop Monsignor Santin, a convinced supporter of ecumenism for the Triveneto episcopate. The president of CEI Bassetti wrote about Maria Vingiani in the message of condolence: “Maria Vingiani has opened roads and built bridges where many Christians and Christians have learned to know each other, slowly removing many prejudices that had polluted relations between Christians and helping to to understand better and better one’s own confessional identity, enriched and not depleted in dialogue with the other “.

Jules Isaac was a French Jew, born in Rennes in Brittany in 1877. Important for him was the meeting with the Catholic poet Charles Péguy with whom he shares a passion for truth. He participated in the First World War and let himself be fascinated by the figure of Jesus. He wrote the essay “The paradox of murderous science” where he stigmatized technological and scientific progress not subject to ethical control. He published seven volumes of a renewed pedagogy of history. He was marginalized from any public office with the racial laws imposed in France by Nazi Germany. In 1943 his wife and children were deported to Auschwitz, only the younger son Claude returned and wanted to change his surname. In 1948 Isaac was among the founders of the first “Jewish-Christian friendship” in France. He published his work titled “Jesus and Israel”. On June 13, 1960 he will meet John XXIII and in him he will find that openness of respect and dialogue to be established between Catholics and Jews, which we enjoy today.

Both Maria Vingiani and Jules Isaac played a non-secondary role for the dialogue between Jews and Catholics and indirectly for the day of dialogue, which for 33 years has now been a significant and necessary opportunity.

May chapter 29 of the Prophet Jeremiah be a “good stone” to deepen the mutual knowledge between Jews and Catholics in order to be a concrete proposal for overcoming any diffidence and opposition and at the same time a concrete sign of stigmatization for all racism and anti-Semitism.

This is one of the singular missions both for Catholics and for the disciples of Moses and the Prophets.

* Episcopal Vicar for the Laity and Culture – Diocese of Trieste

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