Opportunity for Understanding and Peace

Catholic-Jewish relations
In recent decades Catholic-Jewish relations have improved dramatically. This is a great blessing from God working through Jews and Christians of goodwill. Theologians, historians and leaders, Jewish and Christian, have in their sincere search for God, for truth, brought greater understanding and mutual respect between the two groups. This is the fruit of great faith.

This is not to deny that theological differences exist between Judaism and Christianity, differences that cannot be negotiated away. But according to Pope Benedict XVI, peaceful co-existence among religions can proceed from a dialogue of culture and civilization. Jews and Christians already agree on certain foundations for such a dialogue, for example the inviolable dignity of man created in the image of God. Another foundation is the voice of conscience. Conscience is a reality common to us all. And a third foundation is historical fact as this also is something upon which, with effort, agreement can be found. We have tried to base this booklet on all three of these foundations. This is our part in dialogue, and we hope we will receive a positive response.

Most sincerely we hope that any Jews who hold conscience to be the arbiter of values will not condemn Isabel. Whatever differences of understanding remain, it is clear Isabel acted throughout her life according to her conscience, and further she exerted herself to acquire a well-formed conscience.

And we hope that Jews in Israel will have sympathy for Isabel as they know all too well the impossibility of a nation split between people. There are Palestinian people who hate and do violence against the Jewish state, and for their crimes all Palestinian people suffer, even losing the land which belonged for centuries to their fathers. Israel cannot find a painless solution in our day; nor could Isabel find a painless solution in hers.

And we hope orthodox Jews will understand Isabel took Faith to the core of her being. She understood her first duty to her people as upholding that Faith and she would tolerate no blasphemy. Catholics as well as orthodox Jews believe in Moses. As Asher Ginsberg observed in 1889:

“All the laws and ordinances, all the blessings and curses of the Law of Moses have but one unvarying object: the well-being of the nation as a whole in the law of inheritance.”

Isabel understood that an essential duty of her government must be to defend the Faith which Spain had freely adopted.

As sovereign of Spain Queen Isabel wished all her subjects would believe in and honour God. But no matter how strong Isabel’s desire for this, there is no evidence whatsoever that she ever used deception or coercion to force people to become Catholic. Always her choice was to invite, to teach, to persuade; never to force. When ultimately she came to believe that Jews and Christians could not live in peace side by side, her solution was not to exterminate the other, but to give them notice to leave, to protect them in their leaving, so that they might practice their religion wherever they finally made their home.

We love our brothers and sisters the Jews. We hope you will understand we want to see Queen Isabel canonised because we believe she is in Heaven, not because she expelled the Jews, but because she led a life of exemplary virtue and devotion to God. We mean no harm to anybody, but we believe Isabel is in Heaven and we believe great good will come when that is recognised on earth.

Finally, we close by quoting William Thomas Walsh who around 1940 wrote:

“…there is a quality about the Jews which does not exist in any other race. Some Jewish writers, almost in despair to account for the determined animosity of other races, have had recourse to the term ‘their Jewishness,’ a characteristic under which many a Jew has squirmed, and grown either defiant or servile, as men must, and suffered in the depths of his soul. Yet, if Jews are different from other races, it is in such intangible and indefinable ways that no Jew-baiter has been able to put his finger on the precise point of difference. No one who has noticed the generosity of Jews, their love of family, of music, of art; their gratitude to those who have befriended them, their pity for the unfortunate and the oppressed, and better still, their willingness to show their compassion in costly acts of mercy which ought to put many a Christian to shame—no one who looks at this unique and gifted people critically, realistically, without hatred on the one hand or sentimentality on the other, can accept the vulgar calumny that they are in any human sense inferior to any other group of Adam’s progeny. Is it not possible, is it not indeed obvious, that the elusive difference is spiritual? A people set apart by the Creator for a lofty destiny…”

God chose the Jews to witness to the coming of the Messiah. From our understanding, the challenge for Jews is to use their spiritual privilege not to lord it over other peoples but to serve them. And the challenge for Gentiles is not to be jealous and resentful of the special place of the Jews, but to give glory to God for His marvellous works.

“While the passage of time slowly dims and erases the veneration of other figures, clamorous in their day, yet the veneration of the posterity of our princess [Isabel] grows and spreads; and the glory that the grateful remembrance of her virtues pours over her name, widens like a river, the further away it gets from its source.” – Diego Clemencín, 19th Century

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