Pope responds to Israeli criticism over comments on Jewish law

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    VATICAN CITY. – Pope Francis has moved to allay Jewish concerns over comments he made about their books of sacred law, following a demand for clarification from Israel’s top rabbis, Vatican and Jewish community sources said on Monday.

    Last month Reuters reported exclusively that Rabbi Rasson Arousi, chair of the Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel for Dialogue with the Holy See, had written a stern letter to the Vatican, saying Francis’ comments appeared to suggest that the Torah, or Jewish law, was obsolete.

    At a general audience on Aug. 11, the pope said: “The law (Torah) however does not give life.”

    “It does not offer the fulfilment of the promise because it is not capable of being able to fulfil it … Those who seek life need to look to the promise and to its fulfilment in Christ.”

    The Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, contains hundreds of commandments for Jews to follow in their everyday lives. The measure of adherence to the wide array of guidelines differs between Orthodox Jews and Reform Jews.

    Arousi sent his letter on behalf of the Chief Rabbinate – the supreme rabbinic authority for Judaism in Israel – to Cardinal Kurt Koch, whose Vatican department includes a commission for religious relations with Jews.

    In the letter Arousi asked Koch to “convey our distress to Pope Francis” and asked for a clarification from the pope to “ensure that any derogatory conclusions drawn from this homily are clearly repudiated.”

    Francis then asked Koch to explain that his words on the Torah reflecting on the writings of St. Paul in the New Testament should not be taken as a judgment on Jewish law, the sources said. – Reuters