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John M. Oesterreicher

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Monsignor John Maria Oesterreicher, born Johannes Oesterreicher (February 2, 1904 – April 18, 1993) was a Roman Catholic theologian and a leading advocate of Jewish-Catholic reconciliation. He was one of the architects of Nostra Aetate or "In Our Age," which was issued by the Second Vatican Council in 1965 and which repudiated antisemitism.[1]

Oesterreicher was born a Jew in Stadt Liebau in Moravia (then part of Austria[2] and now the Czech Republic). He was a convert to Catholicism who became a Roman Catholic priest in 1927.[2] He served as a chaplain in Gloggnitz and there he founded the local Scout group and served at its chaplain.[3] [1] He was active as an anti-Nazi activist in the 1930s. In 1934 he founded the newspaper Die Erfüllung ("The fruition") in order to improve the relation between Judaism and Christianity and to fight against antisemitism.[4][5][1] He founded together with Georg Bichlmair SJ the Pauluswerk in Vienna.[2][5] The Pauluswerk was a community for Converts from Judaism to Roman Catholicism and prayed for Christianization of Jews.[5][1] He fled Austria at the time of the German Anschluss, or annexation of Austria, in 1938.[2][5][1]

Based initially in Paris, he condemned the Nazis in weekly broadcasts and writings. He fled to the U.S. after the German invasion of France in 1940.[2][1]

Oesterreicher founded the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University in 1953. He was appointed a Papal Chamberlain, with the title of monsignor, in 1961. In the 1960s, Oesterreicher was in a group of 15 priests who petitioned the Vatican to take up the issue of antisemitism.

Oesterreicher is probably best known for his involvement in drafting Nostra Aetate.[6][1] The statement rejected antisemitism and repudiated the notion that Jews were responsible for the persecution and death of Jesus Christ. It stated that even though some Jewish authorities and those who followed them called for Jesus' death, the blame for this cannot be laid at the door of all those Jews present at that time, nor can the Jews in our time be held as guilty.

The statement thus repudiated the historic charge of deicide, which is a basis of antisemitism. It stated that "the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God."

Oesterreicher was strongly pro-Israel and advocated improved relations between Catholics and the Jewish state. However, he was not always a supporter of Israeli government policies.[1]

He was the author of several books and numerous scholarly articles. His books include The New Encounter Between Christians and Jews; Racism, Anti-Semitism, Anti-Christianism; and God at Auschwitz?

A quote

"Nobody says anything against the Egyptian authorities for oppressing the Coptic Christians. No one protested vehemently against the forced closing of St. Joseph's College years ago in Iraq, nor against the laws in Jordan prior to 1967 which prohibited Christians from acquiring new property. If Israel did any of these things, everyone would cry bloody murder, from the authorities in Rome to Catholics all over the world... This is prejudice."

--Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher, quoted by James C. O'Neill, Our Sunday Visitor, July 10, 1983

Sources and external links

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Philipp Lehar (2008). "Persönlichkeiten der Zeitgeschichte und Pfadfinderbrüder" (in German). PPÖ-Brief (Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen Österreichs) 3/2008: 5. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Jelinek, Gerhard (2008) (in German). Nachrichten aus dem 4.Reich. Vienna. p. 149. 
  3. Pfadfindergilde Gloggnitz-Wartenstein (October 2008). "Gedenktafelenthüllung für Prälat Johannes Österreicher" (in German). Der Gildenweg 3/2008: 14. 
  4. Christian Klösch (2000). "Ein mehr als schlampiges Verhältnis-Ständestaat und katholische Kirche und ihr Verhältnis zum Antisemitismus" (in German). Gedenkdienst Zeitung 3/2000: 5. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Wahle, Hedwig. "Das I.D.C.I.V.-Entstehen und Wirken des Informationszentrums im Dienste der christlich-jüdischen Verständigung" (in German). Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  6. Karl Rahner; Herbert Vorgrimmler (2005) (in German). Kleines Konzilskompendium (32 ed.). Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder. p. 351. 

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