40th anniversary of the conciliar declaration Nostra ætate

Source: FSSPX News


On October 27, was celebrated the 40th anniversary of the conciliar declaration Nostra ætate on the relations between the Catholic Church and non-Christian religions. This commemorative day was the occasion for several official statements. On the eve of the anniversary, October 26, before the microphone of Radio Vatican, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for the unity of Christians, affirmed: " The history of our relations with Judaism has always been very difficult, complex, tormented, and also painful", adding that: "we are only at the beginning of the beginning! There is still a long way to go".

The president of the Commission of the Holy See for the religious relations with the Jews made it known that it was not "possible to overcome anti-Semitism once and for all" and recalled upon the necessity of "a continual formation and education". "We must keep alive the flame of this cooperation, of this new friendship between Jews and Christians, and pass it on to the next generation, in order to build up a world of peace", he explained.

"We have a unique relationship with Judaism, the likes of which we have with no other religion", Cardinal Kasper also said. He thinks the declaration Nostra ætate contained two messages: "a resolute ’no’ to anti-Semitism", as well as a ’yes’ to the Jewish roots of Christianity". With this document "which bore important fruits", "we have recovered a great communion" between Jews and Christians, he added, specifying that, "today, we also have begun to collaborate concretely in the political and social realms", on the basis of "common values, upon which we can really build our collaboration".

For his part, Benedict XVI, in a message to Cardinal Kasper dated October 26, declared: "On the occasion of this anniversary, while we look upon the four decades of fruitful contacts between the Church and the Jewish people, we must renew our commitment for the work that still remains to be done. In this spirit, during the first days of my pontificate, and more especially, during my recent visit to the synagogue of Cologne, I have expressed my own strong determination to walk in the footsteps of my beloved predecessor John Paul II". "Judeo-Christian dialogue must continue to enrich and deepen the bonds of friendships which have been developed, when preaching and catechism must make sure that our mutual relationship is presented at the light of the principles set up by the Council", continued the pope. As we turn towards the future, "I express my hope that both in theological dialogue, in contacts and daily collaboration, Christians and Jews will bear a shared testimony, ever-more-irresistible, to the One God and his commandments; holiness of life; promotion of human dignity; the rights of the family; and the need to build a world of justice, reconciliation and peace for the future generations".

Benedict XVI dwelt upon the fruits born by Nostra ætate in the relations of the Church with the Jews. According to him, this declaration "opened a new era in the relations with the Jewish people, and provided the basis for a sincere theological dialogue." He also affirmed that this anniversary provided a motive for "giving thanks to Almighty God for the testimony of all those who, in spite of a complex and often difficult history, and especially after the tragic experience of the Shoah, inspired by a racist and neo-pagan ideology, had worked courageously to promote reconciliation and improve comprehension between Christians and Jews."

"By laying the foundations for a renewed relationship between the Jewish people and the Church, Nostra ætate has emphasized that we need to overcome past prejudices, misunderstandings, indifference and any language expressing contempt or hostility", also explained Benedict XVI. According to him, the Declaration was "the opportunity for a greater mutual understanding and respect; for a cooperation and often a friendship between Catholics and Jews". It also "challenged them to acknowledge the spiritual roots they share in common and to appreciate the rich heritage of faith in the one God, creator of heaven and earth, who has made alliance with his chosen people, revealed his commandments, and taught hope in the messianic promises which provide confidence and solace before the struggles of life".

This message from the pope was read by Cardinal Kasper himself during the meeting, which took place on October 27, in the Chancery’s palace in the Vatican. Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop emeritus of Paris, then pronounced a long speech in French, during which he declared: "The common future for Jews and Catholics is not reduced to limiting possible disputes. It cannot be content with a mere mutual peaceful understanding, nor even with solidarity to the service of mankind".

Rabbi David Rosen, director of the Heilbrunn Institute for international interreligious understanding from the American Jewish committee, spoke last. In his speech delivered in English, he noted the positive aspects of Nostra ætate, while deploring that it was not yet fully received and that some still ignored it. He also deplored that all Catholics do not consider it as having "a doctrinal authority", ranking it as "a pastoral document". He also expressed his "disappointment" with some Christians who do not give up their desire to convert the Jews to Catholicism. "It seems to me that there is an urgent need for the Magisterium to re-affirm this clearly. Otherwise, there will remain not only an unwholesome ambiguity in our relationship, but we will have to keep negotiating with unfortunate and unnecessary tensions on these subjects", he declared. Interrogated, after the conference, on the Catholics’ desire to convert the Jews, Cardinal Kasper acknowledge that this was a "difficult" issue which had not yet been fully "clarified"…