World Youth Day tones down Way of Cross to appease Jewish community
By Anthony Barich
Catholic News Service
PERTH, Australia (CNS) – World Youth Day 2008 organizers have toned down the Stations of the Cross that will process through the streets of Sydney July 18 to appease the local Jewish community.
Church officials agreed to use a "more ecumenical" account based on the New Testament, Jim Hanna, director of communications for World Youth Day, told The Record, Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of Perth, May 30.
"We didn't want to give people reasons to not attend," Hanna said. "We want as many people to attend as possible; that's why we were happy to make changes we could live with."
In discussions with World Youth Day organizers, members of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies said they did not want the Jews to be depicted as the ones who crucified Christ.
A statement released by the World Youth Day office May 29 said: "We've accommodated them (the Jewish community's concerns) where appropriate, but we're unable to change the New Testament. Ultimately, we're acknowledging that Christ was crucified for and by all sinners."
Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher, chief organizer of World Youth Day July 15-20, told The Sydney Morning Herald May 29 that organizers are "very conscious of the fear some people might have that enacting the passion of Christ could incite anti-Semitic feelings, and so we've had a long dialogue about how we can minimize any risk of that."
"We want to make it very clear to people that the passion of Christ celebrated in the Stations of the Cross is not intended to be, is no excuse for being, an attack on anybody and certainly for nurturing any prejudices that people may have in their hearts," he said.
"In the choice of scriptural texts, you can choose ones that are less likely to be misinterpreted by people to encourage that kind of feeling, and we've chosen those texts carefully and in consultation with others," he said.
Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, senior rabbi of the Great Synagogue in Sydney, praised the Catholic Church's attempts at positive talks between the two faiths, and told The Sydney Morning Herald that he had invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit the synagogue during his stay in Australia.
The Australian, a national daily, reported May 30 that during the first station, a re-enactment of the Last Supper to be played out on the steps of St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney's central business district, Pope Benedict will read a prayer, then lead the pilgrims in a recitation of the Our Father. The newspaper said the pope will then descend into the cathedral's crypt accompanied by journalists to watch the remaining Stations of the Cross on television.
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