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Retired pope corrects critical theologian

VATICAN (CNS): In a message sent to the German monthly, Herder Korrespondenz, Emertius Pope Benedict XVI responded to an article in which Michael Bohnke, a German theologian, criticised the pope and accused him of advocating proselytism implying that the retired pontiff encouraged the evangelisation of the Jewish people as a mission.
 
Judaism and Christianity are “two ways of interpreting the scriptures,” the former pope said. The accusation in the article is “grotesque nonsense and has nothing to do with what I said about it. I therefore reject his article as a completely false insinuation.”
 
According to Vatican News, Bohnke panned a document published in 2015 by the Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews.
 
The document, a refection on Catholic-Jewish relations on the 50th anniversary of Vatican II document, Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions), was later published in the German theological journal Communio in 2017.
 
In it, Pope Benedict said that while there is no specific mission to evangelise Jews, “Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews, although they should do so in a humble and sensitive manner.”
 
Bohnke said the former pope lacked understanding with regard to Judaism while ignoring the suffering inflicted upon Jews by Christians.
 
However, the pope addressed Bohnke’s criticism, saying that his words did not emphasise a mission to convert Jews, but rather dialogue.
 
Pope Benedict said Christ’s mandate to his disciples to proclaim the gospel to all peoples and cultures “is universal with one exception: a mission to the Jews was not foreseen and not necessary because they alone, among all peoples, knew the ‘unknown God’.”
 
Christians, he added, are called to dialogue with Jews about Jesus and whether he is the Messiah promised to the people of Israel.
 
To take up this dialogue once again, Pope Benedict said, is “the duty given us at this time.”

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