Q: You say on your Web site that being a Hebrew-speaking Catholic community within a predominantly Jewish society is a new experience in the history of the Church. What led to the establishment of the Association of St. James?
Father Neuhaus: The Association of St. James that became the Hebrew-speaking Catholic Vicariate was officially established as a part of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1955. This was shortly after the establishment of the state of Israel. It was founded in order to serve the myriads of Catholics who had immigrated to Israel, often within mixed Jewish-Catholic families, and they came predominantly from Europe.
It was also founded as a Catholic presence within Jewish society to nurture a new type of relationship between Catholics and Jews. The new reality of a Jewish state with Hebrew as the official language rendered important the existence of a Catholic milieu in which Hebrew was used and spoken.
Among the founders of the Association were Jews who had become Catholics -- mostly in Europe -- and Catholics -- mostly from Europe -- who had a vocation to live in solidarity with the Jewish people in the state of Israel. Our founding fathers and mothers had a vision of a Hebrew-speaking Catholic community at home within the Jewish people in Israel and living its life of faith in profound dialogue and solidarity with the Jewish people.
Q: What new perspective does a Hebrew-speaking Catholic in the Holy Land have to offer?
Father Neuhaus: A Hebrew-speaking Catholic lives within the only Jewish society that constitutes a majority, where the rhythm of day-to-day life is established by Jewish religion, history and culture. For us, the universal Catholic reflection on the Jewish identity of Jesus and the Jewish roots of our faith is not just one element in our renewal after the Second Vatican Council. It is also part of our daily existence.
Dialogue with Jews here is not with a marginal minority but with the dominant majority. As part of our attempts to inculturate, we are challenged to integrate into our Catholic identity, into our liturgy and into our thinking, this daily encounter with Judaism and the Jewish people.
All of this takes place within the very land that is at the center of the biblical narrative, the land in which biblical Israel, her prophets and Our Lord Jesus walked, taught and lived. ...