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Open Letter from Jewish scholars and practitioners in dialogue is essential reading for Catholics

On 12 November 2023, a significant voice — indeed, a ‘cry of the heart’ — went out from the Jewish community, specifically directed to Catholics.

Entitled “An open letter to His Holiness, Pope Francis, and to the Faithful of the Catholic Church”, the letter is signed by Jewish scholars, religious leaders, and practitioners in Jewish-Christian dialogue, in Israel, America and Europe.

Reaching out “in a time of distress and anguish for Jews all over the world”, the signatories of the letter begin by reminding us Catholics that, according to our own testimony, there is a bond that spiritually connects Christians to “Abraham’s stock” (see Nostra Aetate, 4).

Pointing to the events and impact of October 7, they ask us to understand that Jews everywhere have been profoundly affected "in ways we haven't even begun to fathom". October 7 “will be forever marked in Jewish memory”. On that day, in “the most horrific attack on Jews since the Holocaust”, Hamas and their collaborators “abused bodies, burned entire families, brutally raped women, and committed other atrocities which the hand hesitates to write”.

It was a “full-fledged pogrom of the kind we all hoped was no longer possible”.

Further, it has led to a global surge in killings, assaults, threats and harassment of Jews – “the worst wave of antisemitism since 1945”.

Their plea is that our listening transcend politics in order to grasp the depths of the fear and sense of abandonment of Jews in the face of existential threats. “The heavy grief for the lives that were taken is joined by a sense of deep loneliness, and a loss of confidence in the possibility of a life of safety and freedom in the sovereign state of Israel and elsewhere.”

They summon us to honour our long-held commitments flowing from the Second Vatican Council which assured Jews that they could put their trust in the “strong bond of friendship between Jews and Catholics” (CRRJ, 2015). Calling upon that trust, our Jewish friends ask Catholics to be a beacon of moral clarity, to unequivocally condemn Hamas’ terrorist massacre, and to make critical distinctions such as the difference between legitimate political criticism of Israeli policy and the hateful negation of Jews and Israel.

In accordance with our own principles of justice, they appeal to us to join them in “the memory of the victims of October 7th massacre, to advocate for the release of the…hostages, and to acknowledge the vulnerability of the Jewish community at this moment”.

Please take five minutes to read the Letter.*

Share it, talk about it with your family, friends, students, staff or parish community. Then, consider your next step as Catholics, especially in view of the appalling antisemitic expressions that have spilled into our own Australian streets in these past two months.

Taking this Letter seriously is just one thing we can do to show care for our Jewish sisters and brothers, at a time when they most need to know that we hear them and that we are there for them.

And that we "walk with" them, as we said we would.


Teresa Pirola, ThD, is Sydney-based freelance writer and author of Catholic-Jewish Relations: Twelve Key Themes for Teaching and Preaching (Paulist Press, 2023). This article may be reproduced with acknowledgement.

*Open Letter accessed at the Jewish-Christian Relations website of the International Council of Christians and Jews.

To participate in a prayer initiative for the hostages who are still being held by Hamas, click here at All welcome.


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