Are Jews Still the “People of God”?

Dear Catholic Exchange:

In the Faith & Morals channel of 12/16/06, Cardinal Keeler was quoted as saying that the Holocaust was perpetrated against the Jews as the People of God. My understanding has been that after Jesus' first coming, the Jews were no longer the "chosen" people of God but it now encompasses even the Gentiles and that the old covenant had expired and was replaced with the New Covenant. I hope you will be able to clarify. 

God bless,

James Pereira


Dear James,

I don't have the exact context of Card. Keeler's statement, but I'll attempt here to provide a brief explanation based on Vatican II's Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate), no. 4.

While the Church is the new people of God, "the Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from Holy Scripture." St. Paul affirms that to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises (Rom. 9:4-5). The above declaration further notes St. Paul's teaching "that the Jews remain very dear to God, for the sake of the patriarchs, since God does not take back the gifts He bestowed or the choice He made."

In a real way, Christians and Jews share a common spiritual heritage. Vatican II, mindful of this heritage and of the dictates of Christian charity, therefore strongly denounced all hatred, persecution, and other displays of anti-semitism against the Jewish people.

While Christ fulfilled the Old Testament covenants and Jews and Gentiles alike are called to accept Christ and His New Covenant ratified on the Cross, the Jews are in some the sense the "people of God" in terms of being the recipients of God's irrevocable covenants in making them His chosen people. They are not the "people of God" inasmuch as this term is now commonly used to describe the Christian Church. I'm sure Cardinal Keeler must have meant the term in the former sense.

Sincerely in Christ,

Leon Suprenant
Catholics United for the Faith
827 North Fourth Street
Steubenville, OH 43952
800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

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