Nostra Aetate at 50: Christians and Jews Strangers No Longer

Pope Francis Tells International Council Theological Reflection Has Made Progress, Can Develop Even More

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Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council Declaration Nostra Aetate, Christians and Jews are «strangers no longer,» but now friends, and brothers and sisters, says Pope Francis.

The Pope affirmed this today when he received in audience participants in an international congress promoted by the International Council of Christians and Jews. The conference is underway in Rome through July 1 on the theme “The fiftieth anniversary of Nostra Aetate: the past, present and future of relations between Jews and Christians.»

Nostra Aetate, «In our Time,» is Vatican II’s declaration on the Church’s relationship with non-Christian religions. It was promulgated Oct. 28, 1965, by Pope Paul VI.

The Holy Father noted that in Rome, Christians and Jews have lived together for nearly 2,000 years, «even though their relations in the course of history have not been without difficulty.»

«The development of an authentic fraternal dialogue has been made possible since the Second Vatican Council, following the promulgation of the Declaration Nostra Aetate,» the Pontiff said. «This document represents a definitive ‘yes’ to the Jewish roots of Christianity and an irrevocable ‘no’ to anti-Semitism.»

He observed that the anniversary enables us to «see the rich fruits which [the document] has brought about and to gratefully appraise Jewish-Catholic dialogue. In this way, we can express our thanks to God for all the good which has been realized in terms of friendship and mutual understanding these past 50 years.»

The Pope said that God’s Holy Spirit has been able to overcome «our fragmented humanity, mistrust and pride.»

«We are strangers no more, but friends, and brothers and sisters. Even with our different perspectives, we confess one God, Creator of the Universe and Lord of history. And he, in his infinite goodness and wisdom, always blesses our commitment to dialogue,» he said.

Founded on the Word

Pope Francis went on to speak of the Jewish roots of Christianity and the great similarity in the two faith traditions.

He said: «The Christian confessions find their unity in Christ; Judaism finds its unity in the Torah. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh in the world; for Jews the Word of God is present above all in the Torah. Both faith traditions find their foundation in the One God, the God of the Covenant, who reveals himself through his Word. In seeking a right attitude towards God, Christians turn to Christ as the fount of new life, and Jews to the teaching of the Torah. This pattern of theological reflection on the relationship between Judaism and Christianity arises precisely from Nostra Aetate (cf. no. 4), and upon this solid basis can be developed yet further.»

The Pope went on to consider some of the history of the cooperation of the Church and Judaism, noting that the Church’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews «always follows your organization’s activities with great interest, in particular the annual international meetings, which offer a notable contribution to Jewish-Christian dialogue.»

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Kathleen Naab

United States

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