October 28 of this year will mark the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul II”s proclamation of Nostra Aetate, the groundbreaking document that changed fundamentally the relationship of the Roman Catholic Church and other religions. It mentions specifically the contributions of Buddhist, Hindu, and Moslem believers, but devotes the largest section to Judaism. The tangled relationship of Christians and Jews has been the occasion for much hostility and persecution, laid the foundations for antisemitism and set the context which ultimately resulted in the Nazi Holocaust.
Nostra Aetate declared unequivocally that there is no warrant for hatred, persecution or hostility against Jews and other religious groups, and that the Church has something to learn from non-Christian traditions. This document opened the way to new initiatives in interfaith dialogue and cooperation between the Roman Catholic Church and its neighbors who hold different beliefs.
In mid-March a 3-day conference titled “A Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of ‘Nostra Aetate‘: Catholic-Jewish Relations in Theological Dialogue” was held in Washington, D. C. under the auspices of the Interfaith Theological Forum, formed in November 2003 to promote theological conversation between the Catholic Church and Jewish community in the United States. It featured Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican”s Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews and Eugene Borowitz, Sigmund L. Falk Distinguished Professor of Education and Jewish Religious Thought at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
More on the conference in the next posting.