Excerpts from the text of remarks by Pope John Paul II to American Jewish leaders yesterday in Miami:
Our common heritage, task and hope do not eliminate our distinctive identities. Because of her specific Christian witness, "The Church must preach Jesus Christ to the world" . . . . At the same time, we recognize and appreciate the spiritual treasures of the Jewish people and their religious witness to God. A fraternal theological dialogue will try to understand, in the light of the mystery of redemption, how differences in faith should not cause enmity but open up the way of "reconciliation," so that in the end "God may be all in all."
In this regard, I am pleased that the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Synagogue Council of America are initiating a consultation between Jewish leaders and bishops which should carry forward a dialogue on issues of the greatest interest to the two faith communities.
Considering history in the light of the principles of faith in God, we must also reflect on the catastrophic event of the Shoah, that ruthless and inhuman attempt to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe, an attempt that resulted in millions of victims -- including women and children, the elderly and the sick -- exterminated only because they were Jews.
Considering this mystery of the suffering of Israel's children, their witness of hope, of faith and of humanity under dehumanizing outrages, the church experiences ever more deeply her common bond with the Jewish people and with their treasure of spiritual riches in the past and in the present.
It is also fitting to recall the strong, unequivocal efforts of the popes against anti-Semitism and Nazis at the height of the persecution against the Jews. Back in 1935, Pius XI declared that "anti-Semitism cannot be admitted" and he declared the total opposition between Christianity and Nazism by stating that the Nazi cross is an "enemy of the Cross of Christ." And I am convinced that history will reveal ever more clearly and convincingly how deeply Pius XII felt the tragedy of the Jewish people, and how hard and effectively he worked to assist them during the Second World War.
Speaking in the name of humanity and Christian principles, the Bishops' Conference of the United States denounced the atrocities with a clear statement: "Since the murderous assault on Poland, utterly devoid of every semblance of humanity, there has been a premeditated and systematic extermination of the people of this nation.
"The same satanic technique is being applied to many other peoples. We feel a deep sense of revulsion against the cruel indignities heaped upon the Jews in conquered countries and upon defenseless peoples not of our faith."
. . . To understand even more deeply the meaning of the Shoah and the historical roots of anti-Semitism that are related to it, joint collaboration and studies by Catholics and Jews on the Shoah should be continued. Such studies have already taken place through many conferences in your country, such as the National Workshops on Christian-Jewish Relations.
The religious and historical implications of the Shoah for Christians and Jews will now be taken up formally by the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee, meeting later this year in the United States for the first time. And as was affirmed in the important and very cordial meeting I had with Jewish leaders in Castel Gandolfo on Sept. 1, a Catholic document on the Shoah and anti-Semitism will be forthcoming, resulting from such serious studies.
Similarly, it is to be hoped that common educational programs on our historical and religious relations, which are well developed in your country, will truly promote mutual respect and teach future generations about the Holocaust so that never again will such a horror be possible.
. . . Necessary for any sincere dialogue is the intention of each partner to allow others to define themselves "in the light of their own religious experience." In fidelity to this affirmation, Catholics recognize among the elements of the Jewish experience that Jews have a religious attachment to the land, which finds its roots in biblical tradition.
After the tragic extermination of the Shoah, the Jewish people began a new period in their history. They have a right to a homeland, as does any civil nation, according to international law. "For the Jewish people who live in the state of Israel and who preserve in that land such precious testimonies to their history and their faith, we must ask for the desired security and the due tranquility that is the prerogative of every nation and condition of life and of progress for every society."
What has been said about the right to a homeland also applies to the Palestinian people, so many of whom remain homeless and refugees. While all concerned must honestly reflect on the past -- Muslims no less than Jews and Christians -- it is time to forge those solutions which will lead to a just, complete and lasting peace in that area. For this peace I earnestly pray.
. . . To all of you, dear friends, dear brothers and sisters; to all of you dear Jewish people of America: With great hope I wish you the peace of the Lord: Shalom. Shalom. God bless you on this Sabbath and in this year: Shabbath Shalom. Shanah Tovah we-Hatimah Tovah.