New – Theologica No. 7: Ebrei e Cristiani

»… A decisive turning point in the Judeo-Catholic dialogue«

That is the sentence written on the advertising banner of the book “Ebrei e Cristiani” because Pope em. Benedict’s contribution in the periodical Communio last year spurred the Judeo-Christian dialogue unexpectedly.

The book was presented at an event on May 16, 2019, hosted by the Chair for the Theology of the People of God at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. The speakers were Rabbi Arje Folger, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the Prefect of the Papal Household and Benedict XVI’s secretary, and Elio Guerriero, the editor of the book. Theologica No. 7 gives an account of the speeches at the event in German.

You can find further information on content and ordering details here.

Paths out of hardship

by S. Almekias-Siegl

The classic Jewish reaction to catastrophe is renewal of life. It is part of the mentality of the people of Israel to preserve the memory of its story of success and suffering, so hope for the future arises from it.

Pointedly one could say: Israel’s looking back brings it forward. Memory is the key for the future of the people of Israel. As the test took place, so also will salvation happen. The past catastrophes have undoubtedly devastated the Jewish community, but in a paradox way also strengthened her. A Russian folk tale expresses this inner-Jewish movement and dynamic well:

When Napoleon came through a small Jewish shtetl during his expedition against Russia, he wished to see the synagogue from the inside. Coincidentally this day was the 9th Av and the Jews sat on the floor in the dark, lamenting and praying. When it had been explained to Napoleon that the reason for their lamentation was the destruction of the temple, he asked: “When did this happen?” “2000 years ago”, they told him. When he heard this, the emperor commented: “A people that is able to preserve the memory of its land for 2000 years will surely find the way to return home there.”

But let us not forget one thing at this point: This is not an automatism. The fasting and remembering of the past alone is not enough. Because hate and strife have lead to the loss of the temple. The fasting must be accompanied by daily interaction of the children of Israel with one another in truth and peace, if it is really supposed to come to a change from sad to renewed happy days.


Translated from: Jüdische Allgemeine, 18.07.2019, arcticle by Rabbi Salomon Almekias-Siegl

„Ebrei e cristiani“

Meeting at the Lateran University

On 16 May, 2019, at the Papal Lateran University in Rome, the Chair for the Theology of the People of God presented the Italian translation of the correspondence between Pope em. Benedict XVI and the Viennese Chief Rabbi Arie Folger to an interested audience.

Prof. Achim Buckenmaier, the director of the Chair, moderated the event. The Viennese Chief Rabbi Arie Folger, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Pontifical House and Private Secretary of Pope em. Benedict XVI, Dr. Elio Guerriero, author of the book, and the director of the Osservatore Romano, Dr. Andrea Monda, presented the book.

You can find additional information and pictures on the homepage of the Chair

Coagulated from experience

by J. Ratzinger

Part of the act of faith, from its fundamental structure, is the inclusion into the Church, into that which commonly unites and binds us.

To enter into the community of faith means to enter into the community of life and vice versa. The Church’s degree of reality goes beyond what is definable through literature. To be sure, what the Church believes and lives can be attested to in the book, and so it is. But it does not merge into the book; instead the book itself only retains its function if it points to the community, where the word lives. You cannot replace or overhaul this community though historical exegesis; in its inner hierarchy it precedes the book. The word of faith inherently presupposes the community that lives it, binds itself to it and holds fast to its bindingness for man. In so far as revelation goes beyond literature, it also goes beyond the borders of the mere scientificity of historical reason.


Translated from: Joseph Ratzinger, Theologische Prinzipienlehre (1982)

On the earthly womb of Christ

by J. Roth

So I began to visit the Jews. And above all, I saw that the reason they were regarded as a special people was because it was in their womb that the thought was first born that the peoples of the earth, of all the earth, were equal children of God.

Precisely because they were the first to say that all humans of all peoples were equal children of God, now people would say that they, the Jews, saw themselves as special children of God. For thus it is in this world, where the antichrist rules for now: that those people who say they want good are accused of evil. The old Jews said they were God’s chosen people. But for which purpose did they say this? For the purpose of bringing forth the savior, the Jesus Christ. So, in all actuality, the pride of the Jews was humility. They were not just veritably chosen because – as we know – the savior of the world came from the womb of the Jews, but also because they brought forth the only son of man, of whom it is not pride to be proud of. They did not only bear the savior, they also denied him. They were truly God’s chosen people. They are chosen in two ways: not just because they hardened their hearts. So they, the Jews, are chosen in two ways: firstly, because they brought forth Jesus Christ; secondly, because they denied him. Through their virtue as through their sin they have prepared the salvation of the world. That is why anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and hates, despises or even just thinks little of the Jews, his earthly womb, is the brother of the antichrist. Even the pagans still honor all those places, at which their saints and prophets showed them their human weaknesses. Whoever thinks little of the Jews, also thinks little of Jesus Christ. Whoever is a Christian, honors the Jews. For if the Jews were chosen to bring about Jesus’ earthly death, then through that they have confirmed God’s covenant with Abraham, the covenant with which the salvation of this world began. And if God has chosen the Jews to not only bring forth Jesus Christ, but also to deny him, then this happened because he himself smote the children of Israel with blindness. And it is also He who is allowed to smite them again, He alone. Whoever hates the Jews is a pagan and not a Christian. Whoever hates anyone at all, no matter who, is a pagan and not a Christian. And whoever believes he is only a Christian because he is not a Jew, he is a pagan twofold and threefold. May he be cast out of the community of Christians! And if the Church does not cast him out, God himself casts him out.


Translated from: Joseph Roth, Der Antichrist (1934) 

Who will sing the New Song

Israel sang it with Miriam

by the shore of the Red Sea at the edge of the desert

Moses sang it on Mount Nebo

seeing the land but not entering it

David sang it in front of the Arc of the Covenant

dancing awkwardly

Daniel sang it with his friends

in the overheated furnace


Isaiah sang it

when the escaped ones returned

The wisdom teachers sang it

during the encounter with the rationality of the Greeks

The Maccabees sang it

in the face of the inexhaustible oil of the temple lamp


Zachariah the silent one sang it

Mary the pure one visited by God sang it

Old Simeon sang it


Jesus sang it over the small and poor that saw

Paul sang it when he found the future of Israel


The desert fathers sang it

when they turned their backs on the corrupt cities

Benedict’s monasteries sang it

when they cultivated the jungles and swamps

Francis sang it

when he left everything behind to move pope and sultan


It roved around and lent its notes

to the enlighteners and Church critics

Did Nietzsche not sing its melody

Did Marx not hold its sheet music

in his hands upside down


Why were its verses split after Luther

Why did its beauty leave the churches in modern times

Why did it have to ring out as a song of death in Auschwitz

And why almost die

under mountains of concepts and papers


Who sings the New Song today

that is not just melodious not just true

That continues to tell the story



Clerical project management

The Church should “reinvent” herself, is a piece of high-profile advice, a demand in view of the turbulences.

To that I can only say: No, the Church does not need to reinvent herself, the Church is not even capable of reinventing herself because she did not invent herself in the first place. The Church is not an invention of man, but God’s project, which he started – also because of our sinfulness – and which he carries through the times in spite of it!


Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer, January 27, 2019, in the Regensburg Cathedral

On the Christian Europe

by J. Ratzinger

This so-called Christian Europe for almost four hundred years has become the birthplace of a new paganism, which is growing steadily in the heart of the Church, and threatens to undermine her from within.

The outward shape of the modern Church is determined essentially by the fact that, in a totally new way, she has become the Church of pagans, and is constantly becoming even more so. She is no longer, as she once was, a Church composed of pagans who have become Christians, but a Church of pagans, who still call themselves Christians, but actually have become pagans. Paganism resides today in the Church herself. In the long run, the Church cannot avoid the need to get rid of, part by part, the appearance of her identity with the world, and once again to become what she is: the community of the faithful. Actually, her missionary power can only increase through such external losses. Only when she ceases to be a cheap, foregone conclusion, only when she begins again to show herself as she really is, will she be able to reach the ear of the new pagans with her good news.


Translated from Joseph Ratzinger, Die neuen Heiden und die Kirche (1958) by Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J.:


The story of the foundling

Every Sunday at mass we hear texts from the bible. Every time they read us the riot act properly. And yet we like to go, yet we always like to listen to the old texts, always newly curious and attentive. Why is that?

They speak of a place of longing that is closed off to us, we hear of a world of longing that we have no access to.

The place of longing came into the world “when Israel came forth from Egypt”. The people around Moses wanted leave the land of meat kettles of drudgery and bondage, they fled to the desert with the dream of their patriarch Jacob; and during the 40 years of their life in the desert they sweat out a new order of life; and Moses brought it down on tablets from the mountain of the Lord, of the God of their father Jacob. In the Torah, their new principle of life, and in their life God proved Himself their savior. And Israel swears: “We will do it!”

For over a thousand years they lead this life with their new God, who saves and envies. For the religions court, Israel gives in, lies on the ground, repents, gets up, swears, courts further. And then they build Him a temple, with the Torah in the Holy of Holies and with a high priest.

Israel is doing poorly. Foreign powers alternate in their reign of drudgery on the country. During the reign of the Romans one of the sons of Israel gets up: Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up! “But he was speaking about the temple of his body”, the community of his discipleship, the rest of Israel that fully listens to the word of God in the flesh, with the entire entirety of life, and the entire intellectual capacity of thought, and entirely out of pure joy. The gospels tell us of this revolution of Jews and Gentiles. “The kingdom of God is among you.”

The Church grows, grows, grows rampant, becomes temple, becomes the world religion. Over the course of a thousand years and more its highly differentiated theology grows along with the temple-church-religion. It grows along with a theology of the kingdom of God, of the place of longing in the world beyond and our meek earthly vale of tears.

The gods return in other powerful places of longing in this world. The communist religion of salvation spreads brutally over half the world, the brown canopy stretches over Germany, and in this Reich the “salvation of the Jews” was unbearable for the Heil Hitler. The world witnesses the inconceivable genocide of the people of God in the midst of Christianity.

Today “after everything is over forever”, today we live in a materialistic, capitalistic, global lap of luxury, addicted to places of longing, with a little bit of pleasure for the day and a little bit of pleasure for the night. We want to dance, in a boundless pleasure-world-place-of-longing, and we are dancing on a volcano. Because our exact world of science shows us the consequence of such dancing. A moment of materialistic, capitalistic, global fraternity? A possible solidary look outside the box of our goings-on? In the world we are like little bacteria in a round Petri dish in a super nutrient solution. The bacteria thrive, multiply, multiply on and on until the entire dish is filled. “Have dominion over the Petri dish!” Then the super nutrient solution is used up and the bacteria die. That’s how it goes, even with the big animals. Empty churches, empty world. Where can help come from? Our help is in the name of the Lord! Lord? Address unknown? rus

Expectation and reality

by J. Sacks

The Jews have learned to see the world completely differently. The book of Genesis, the first book of Moses, starts with God, who creates man “in his image and likeness.”

This sentence has become so familiar to us that we forget how paradox it really is – in the Hebrew Bible God has no image or likeness. But in the following tale it quickly becomes clear what humans have in common with God: freedom and responsibility. This creates a difficult theological dilemma. How can we reconcile the great hopes that God puts in humanity with the shabby and thin file of our moral history? The answer is: forgiveness. God wrote forgiveness into the script. He always gives us a second chance, and then another and another. All we have to do is recognize our wrongdoing, ask for forgiveness, make up for it and decide to do better – and God forgives. We can uphold the highest expectations, if at the same time we honestly admit our most hidden weaknesses.


Translated from: Jonathan Sacks, Vom Schicksal zum Glauben, Jüdische Allgemeine, 9. September 2018