I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Hebrew Catholic or Hebrew Speaking Kehilla? The St James Vicariate

In my blog article of Five Kinds of Hebrew Catholics I wrote about the Hebrew-speaking Catholics who seek to be culturally Israelis who are Catholic in religion. This group in Israel is the present St James Vicariate. In recent years they have been growing due to a number of Gentile families from the third world whose children speak Hebrew so feel more comfortable in the Israeli-style Hebrew speaking Kehillot of the St James Vicariate in Israel.

However the original Association of St James founded in the 1950's saw itself in a different light and many older members are saddened by the new direction of the St James Vicariate since the death of the first modern-day Hebrew Catholic Bishop in Jerusalem of a Hebrew-speaking community. The movement has now changed from being a sacred place for Hebrew Catholics of their own in the Church, to a Hebrew-speaking community in Israeli society which includes some Jewish or Hebrew Catholics. Some Hebrew Catholics are still involved with it but they will soon be outnumbered by the Gentiles. Basically the new direction is moving away from the Jewish identity of the Kehillot and its development of a Jewish-Christian spirituality for Hebrew Catholics or Jewish believers in Yeshua in the Church. Is this just assimilation in another form?

It is not that its present direction is not a good one and is certainly needed for those Catholics who are not Jews growing up in Israel. However the original vision that inspired its founders is rapidly being lost. Maybe it is time for someone in Israel to reform the original St James Association for the development of the Jewish Church possibly based on the Ordinariate model in which Hebrew Catholics all over the world could be members if they wished.  

In the past English-speaking Hebrew Catholics who tend to be more conservative and orthodox than the more liberal French influenced Hebrew -speaking Catholics have had troubles communicating. Father David Neuhaus did a wonderful job in trying to reach out to all while working within the parameters of the new direction of the St James Vicariate. That he himself was Jewish and English -speaking helped and his involvement in discussion with other Jewish believers in Yeshua in the Churches and Messianic Jews was also important and seemed to maintain a bit of the older spirit of the original association of St James. Now he is no-longer leader and with the leadership given to a Gentile priest will even these connections fade?

Among many Jewish believers in Yeshua in Israel there seems to be less devotion to traditional Jewish ways centred on Torah and Mitzvot than in the diaspora. Diaspora Hebrew Christians have become more and more observant as they realise this is what preserves Jewish identity. However in Israel this is seen as less important as Israeli identification is seen as that which preserves their identity. However this makes them more a part of secular Israeli culture and more distant from Orthodox Jewish religious culture.

Many Jews in the Church and their Gentile supporters have longed for a return of the Jewish Church of the Circumcision as the mother form of the Church and the need to create a Jewish space in the Church. Now it would seem one of those spaces in the making is becoming regentilised step by step until it is just another branch of the Gentile Church that happens to have the Latin liturgy in the Hebrew language. This would seem to rather suit the Arab dominated Latin Rite of the Church in the Holy Land and the Franciscans whose clergy are mostly negative towards Jews and the state of Israel. 

In the recent Vicariate clip in celebrating of the 60th anniversary of the St James Vicariate we see the sadness of one who fought for the original vision of the Association of St James, Cecile Pilverdier, at this new direction. After the excitement of the first Jewish Bishop in Jerusalem since the early Church with his death many dreams were dashed as the Kehillot of St James went in a different direction. But there is always hope and new wine that needs new wineskins. The Holy Spirit has not finished yet and in God's time we will see that Jewish space created in the Church in preparation of the ingrafting in Romans 11. Maybe it will only be when a more ecumenical working together with other Jews in the different churches and the Messianic Jewish movements, as has begun in the Helsinki Consultations, that a way forward will be found.


Leslie Bresnick said...

Thank you for your post. I am an American Hebrew Catholic and the idea of any kind of Jewish culturally-oriented "space" is unknown here in the New York City area, as far as I know. I am sure that with prayer, there will be more people like me who will want to create that more Jewish cultural and observant place in the Church. I was not raised a particularly observant Jew, either, and have a lot to learn on both sides, but it is a great comfort to my soul to know there are others like me.

Leslie B.

Catholic Jew said...

Dear Leslie, Lovely to hear from you. Are you in contact with David Moss and the AHC in St Louis Missouri? I amsurprised that no-one has started a Hebrew Catholic Havurah (Study group) in the New York area as there must be alot of interested people there.

Anonymous said...

Dear Aron, you are so on target in your criticism! We do need a Hebrew Catholic Church that will be our Synagogue too!

Nevertheless, having newly embraced the Catholic Church of our Rebbe Melech HaMashiach, the Hebrew-speaking Kehila in Jerusalem has become my home and I totally love it there! I mamash feel the Shechina present in the liturgy and especially in the Blessed Eucharist, the Tish of our Rebbe (in matza and kosher wine our Mashiach feels that much closer!) And the place is totally accepting of Torah faithful Hebrew Catholics like me, and I'm not the only one!

Also, please be aware of how your words may be (mis)understood. Calling Father Rafik a Gentile as though that makes him somehow a worse leader for our kehila is demeaning in my eyes. A Jew is not one who is circumcised outwardly, but one who is circumcised inwardly, St. Paul says. And Father Rafik is a true man of God, with a noble and humble character, a real tzaddik, not to mention a wise, devoted and gifted leader plus a scholar in Jewish tradition (with a PhD in Gaonic literature). Who can say or think anything against such a servant of Adonai for our community? That doesn't take away from the special mentoring relationship I have with Father David, who, as a Jew, can understand my Jewish issues and share insider Jewish jokes. But having a Jewish heart is what should qualify one for leadership in a Hebrew Catholic Kehila, not the genes or the nose.

Have a blessed Ash Wednesday and an easy fast!

Catholic Jew said...

Thanks for your comments. I in no way wanted to imply anything negative about Father Rafik who is a wonderful man and priest and the Kehilla in its present mode is very blessed to have as its shepherd and pastor. My point is that the present direction of the Kehilla is not bad and it is needed but it is not the vision that Jewish Catholics originally had for a Jewish presence in the Church. I myself regularly attended the Kehilla when I have lived in Jerusalem back in 2002-3 and in 2007 and 2008 and was thankful for its presence. I think Father Antoine Levy of Finland sums up the bond of understanding there is between other Jews who believe in Yeshua that it is not possible for non-Jewish believers to really get in his reflections.