From ALAN McELWAIN in Rome
CARDINAL HEENAN, Vice-President of the Vatican Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity, said in Rome this week that he was quite confident the Secretariat would produce a document on the Jews that would be acceptable to "both sides". This document was certain to be approved by the Vatican Council at its fourth and final session, starting on September 14, he added.
Cardinal Heenan flew to Rome on Tuesday to take part in an outstandingly important plenary session of the Secretariat which will continue into this weekend. Both the controversial document on non-Christians, including the Jews, and that on religious liberty arc being discussed.
Throughout the week, the Secretariat President, Cardinal Bea, has presided over the 30 member bishops and expert advisers taking part. Among them is Bishop Holland of Salford.
Proceedings are secret and a Secretariat spokesman said it was unlikely that a communique on them would be issued. The document, after final revision at the meeting. will be circulated to the world's bishop's and is expected to be finally approved without a great deal of debate next session.
Cardinal Heenan has made it abundantly clear on several occasions that he would fight to retain in the document its original unequivocal declaration that the Jewish people as a whole could not be held responsible for Christ's crucifixion, then or at any time since.
Ultra-conservative elements in the Council have severely criticised this straightforward effort to right the centuries-old historical misconception regarding the Jews.
Jewish leaders have warmly welcomed the statement and also equally warmly resented reports that anything might be done to break it down.
The Secretariat spokesman told me that there was nothing to add to an earlier Secretariat statement that the declaration on the Jews was not being "watered down" and that there had been no pressure for revision of the key section from a reported "Commission of Four", under conservative Bishop Carli of Segni.
Bishop Carli has openly expressed his opposition to the Jews being cleared of deicide in the draft of the document overwhelmingly approved by the Council during its third session last year.
This approval meant that the document, under Council rules, would have to remain essentially as it was and could be changed in substance only by the full Council itself when it reassembled.
Some "minor amendments" by Council Fathers who voted for approval of the document "with reservations" had, however, been worked into the final draft.
The spokesman added that any of the suggested minor alterations that ran against the tone and content of the document had been automatically rejected, again under Council rules.
Cardinal Bea, the chief architect of the document, himself denied recently that it was to be weakened. He also made it plain that Bishop Carli's critical views of the Jewish people were not those of the Secretariat or any of its members, and that they had no relationship to the document's text.
The Secretariat is expected to give full approval to the new draft on religious liberty, which is most eagerly awaited by religious leaders and others throughout the world. Here again, Cardinal Heenan is a staunch supporter.
At the third Council session, he intervened on behalf of 70 bishops, urging that, through the religious liberty document, Catholics, often accused of not sincerely believing in religious freedom, should declare to the whole world, once and for all, "our heartfelt belief in the full liberty of all the sons of God".