Benedict’s new text, Grace and Vocation Without Remorse, appeared in the German edition of the July-August issue of Communio, a major theological journal Joseph Ratzinger co-founded in 1972 with Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac.
The 18-page article is dated Oct 26, 2017 and is signed “Joseph Ratzinger-Benedikt XVI.” It was originally written as a reflection on the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s 1965 declaration on the Church’s relations with non-Christian religions.
It was intended as an internal document for the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, which is under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
But Jan-Heiner Tück, editor of the German edition of Communio, said Benedict’s text was “remarkable” for several reasons.
In an interview with Kathpress, the 51-year-old theologian said it showed that Pope Francis “now has a ‘second voice,’ so to speak, at his side; especially since (the current Pope) has himself spoken out on Christian-Jewish relations – in Evangelii gaudium and on other occasions.”
Tück said Benedict’s article also provides “explosive food for thought.” He said that while it does not claim to be “doctrinally authoritative,” it should be approached “benevolently… but certainly without letting due critical queries to be swept under the table.”
The former pope is chiefly concerned with two issues: the current rejection of the so-called substitution or replacement theory and the expression of the “never-revoked covenant” coined by his predecessor St. John Paul II in 1980.
“Both theses — that Israel was not replaced by the Church and that the Covenant was never revoked — are basically correct, but in many respects inaccurate and therefore require further thought,” Benedict said.
He also reflected on the differences between Jewish and Christian understandings of the Messiah and on the foundation of Israel as a state. The foundation of Israel was a consequence of the Shoah and a purely political event, he said, adding it has no theological significance and is not part of redemption history.
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