November 8, 2006
At the end of the four-day International Jewish Catholic Liaison Committee conference in Cape Town on Tuesday, leading cardinals and rabbis addressed the plight of AIDS orphans and the role of religious leaders in fighting HIV/AIDS. The committee, meeting for the first time in Africa, was established by the Vatican through the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with Jewry and is headed by commission President Cardinal Walter Kasper and Rabbi David Rosen, president of the International Jewish Committee for Inter-religious Consultations.
The meeting focused on Jewish and Catholic perspectives on health care, especially the issue of HIV/AIDS. The Catholic Church, which opposes the use of condoms as contraception, is divided over whether to permit condoms in the fight against HIV, particularly when one partner in a marriage is infected. While Jewish ethical teaching disapproves of condoms as a form of contraception, Rosen said they are allowed if "marital relations were life-threatening."
Despite these differences, meeting attendees were united in their concern about the epidemic. "No modern plague has afflicted as much death as HIV/AIDS," said Rosen. "We wanted to look at ways Jewish and Catholic communities could be a source of blessing and healing."
"While recognizing that our respective traditions may differ regarding possible prevention strategies with respect to HIV/AIDS and related afflictions, we unreservedly unite in calling for unrestricted palliative care and appropriate attention for all those suffering, threatened or victimized by the tragic pandemic," said a joint declaration that also called for an end to HIV/AIDS stigma.
"Care of the sick and less fortunate is perceived as the very emulation of the divine attributes," attendees said. "This call goes out especially to government and all who have the power, means, and influence to implement it."