Vatican calls for respect for Jews among instructions for bishops

Posted: Friday, March 12, 2004

VATICAN CITY (AP) The Vatican issued instructions for bishops Tuesday that included a reminder that Jews should be treated with respect as ''elder brothers'' to avert anti-Semitism, and that priests should be properly educated about the Jewish religion.

The 300-page volume takes into account church teaching in recent decades and while not breaking new ground touches on subjects ranging from relations with Jews to the recent sex abuse scandals.

The new Mel Gibson epic ''The Passion of the Christ'' has created tensions between Jews and Christians. Some Jewish leaders say the film will fuel anti-Semitism by unfairly portraying Jews as the main force behind the death of Jesus. Several Vatican prelates have endorsed the film, insisting it is not anti-Semitic.

''The bishop must promote among Christians an attitude of respect toward our 'elder brothers' to avoid instances of anti-Judaism, and must be vigilant that priests receive a proper formation on the Jewish religion and its relations with Christianity,'' the manual for bishops said.

It referred to the 1965 document ''Nostra Aetate'' (In Our Times), which said Jews were not collectively responsible for the crucifixion.

The manual for bishops did not specifically mention the abuse crisis, but said bishops must deal with ''scandalous behavior'' by priests by acting with ''charity but firmness,'' and that in ''extreme cases'' church law calls for a process leading to dismissal from the priesthood.

The manual also urged bishops to insist that their priests adopt ''reserved behavior'' with women to maintain celibacy.

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