The Hebrew Catholics Of Israel

With the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel there are many stories that come to the surface that I find especially intriguing.  For example, I came a cross an interesting article on the small community of Hebrew Catholics living in Israel.  They consist of:

Christians married to Jews, monks and nuns who live in Israel out of solidarity, Christians who immigrated from the former Soviet Union and Jews who converted.

There are approximately 4000 in all of Israel today.  They are in full communion with the Catholic Church.  Probably the only difference between them and Latin Rite Catholics is that their liturgy uses Hebrew and they celebrate the Jewish holidays as well as those contained in the Catholic liturgical calendar. 

I’d like to point out some historical nuances with certain Hebrew words that are used in their unique liturgy.  For instance certain words are updated to remove the negative connotations that the Jews themselves had attributed to Catholic terms and names.  An example is the name of Jesus:

Linguists say the modern Hebrew word for Jesus, Yeshu, is derived from the word, Yeshua or Yehoshua, which was given by rabbis in the Middle Ages and which is in fact an acronym of the expression “may his name and memory be obliterated.”

Now that’s some interesting piece of information.  Their word for a Catholic priest is also a bit derogatory [comments mine]:

the Hebrew word for a Christian priest, Komer, originates in a Biblical term signifying a worshipper of idols. Neuhaus uses the term Cohen, the same name for the Jewish priests [instead of Komer] who worked in the Temple.

Aside from some unsavory rhetoric from our older Jewish brothers Hebrew Catholics certainly lead a difficult life.  Having to straddle the divide between their Jewish brethren on one hand and their Arab Christian brethren on the other makes for an interesting and rich faith life (not to mention being surrounded by unhappy Muslims).

To read the rest of the story click here.

To learn more about Hebrew Catholics from the Association of Hebrew Catholics click here.

To learn more about Jewish converts to Catholicism click here.

To learn more about Hebrew Catholics from Wikipedia click here.

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