NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — If you ask any Catholic about whether they need to be told not to try to convert people, and you might get an answer like this:
“Once Jewish always Jewish, once Catholic always Catholic,” said John DeSio, of Staten Island.
Of course, there are those who convert on their own. But nonetheless, the Vatican released a document Thursday warning Catholics not to try to convert people of Jewish faith, saying “…the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.”
Father Brian McWeeney told CBS2’s Dick Brennan what the Vatican is trying to do, is actually a reaction to religious extremism.
“We are correcting a past, that is a very sad past, in which coercion was used to convert people from one faith experience to another,” he said.
McWeeney, with the Archdiocese of New York, said the document is relevant today.
“Because of the turmoil of extremism in which people say you must join our faith or you’re dead,” he said.
Until 1960, prayers at Good Friday masses actually called for the conversion of Jews, but that soon changed.
“1965 was clearly a defining year in Catholic-Jewish relations where the Vatican said any negative references to Jews in our Liturgy, must be removed,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive director of the NY Board of Rabbis.
Potasnik said relations between Jews and Catholics in the New York area have been strong.
“Years ago I was here at St. Patrick’s and Cardinal O’Connor said publicly ‘I don’t want Jews to become Catholics, I don’t want Catholics to become Jews. I want to Jews to be better Jews, I want Catholics to be better Catholics.’ That should be the stance that all of us take in our respective traditional lives,” he said.
The document said Catholics should be particularly sensitive to the significance of the Holocaust, and do everything to stop anti-Semitism.