In a “correction” sent to the German monthly Herder Korrespondenz, Joseph Ratzinger, His Holiness Benedict XVI affirmed that Christians are called to a “dialogue” with the Jews, rather than a “mission.” The Pope emeritus was responding to an article by theologian Michael Böhnke of Wuppertal. In the September issue of the journal, Böhnke had commented disapprovingly on statements made by Benedict concerning the relationship between Jews and Christians.
As reported by Vatican news, Judaism and Christianity, said His Holiness Benedict, are “two ways of interpreting the Scriptures.” For Christians, the promises made to Israel are the hope of the Church, and “those who abide by it are in no way questioning the foundations of the Jewish-Christian dialogue.” The accusation contained in the article, he continued, is “grotesque nonsense and has nothing to do with what I said about it. I therefore reject his article as a completely false insinuation.”
In his “correction,” His Holiness Benedict also addressed – among other theological issues – the delicate question of the “mission” to the Jews; that is, the question of whether the Church should proclaim the Good News of Christ to the Jews. His Holiness Benedict wrote: “A mission to the Jews is not foreseen and not necessary.” At the same time, it is true that Christ gave His disciples a mission to all peoples and all cultures. For this reason, Emeritus Benedict affirms, “the missionary mandate 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’.” For Israel, then, it was not a mission, but a dialogue about whether Jesus of Nazareth was “the Son of God, the Logos,” for whom, according to the promises made to His people, Israel, and the whole world without knowing it, was waiting. Taking up this dialogue anew, Emeritus Benedict said, is “the duty given us at this time.”