50th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate

October 30, 2015 by Roz Tarszisz
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A conference to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate (In Our Time) promulgated by the Roman Catholic Church on October 28, 1965 has been hosted by Sydney’s The Great Synagogue.

As the date marks a very important moment in modern Jewish-Christian relations, it was an opportunity for Jews and Catholics to join together to commemorate and celebrate the anniversary and to reaffirm and deepen relationships.

Jeremy Spinak, Peter Wertheim, Cardinal and Rabbi Ben Elton Photo: Selina Hasham

Jeremy Spinak, Peter Wertheim, Archbishop Anthony Fisher and Rabbi Ben Elton

The day’s events culminated in a ceremony in the synagogue’s main sanctuary where community leaders and representatives from many faiths, including The Grand Mufti of Australia,  Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, attended.

Titled The Past, Present and Future of the Christian-Jewish Relationship, the conference was hosted by Australian Catholic University, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (NSWJBD) and the Sydney Jewish Museum.

The day’s program included sessions speakers Avril Alba, Judith Banki, Edmund Chia, Christiaan Jacobs-Vandegeer Julie Kalman, and Dermot Nestor.

Moderator Greg Craven, Vice Chancellor, Australian Catholic University said the evening was the “culmination of a day of discussion and reflections”. He spoke about his own father teaching him that anti-Semitism was a grave mortal sin and “the worst possible offence to G-d”.

The Grand Mufti, Archbishop Anthony Fisher and Rabbi Ben Elton

The Grand Mufti Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, Archbishop Anthony Fisher and Rabbi Ben Elton

In demonstrating past Australian Catholic-Jewish relations, he said that Archbishop Daniel Mannix, a supporter of Jewish migration to Australia, would often drop into Melbourne’s Bourke Street Synagogue where he listened to the children’s scripture lessons and talked informally to Rabbi Solomon.

His Grace Most Reverend Anthony Fisher, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney said he hoped that the mutual respect and co-operation between the Catholic and Jewish communities would continue in the “50 years to come”.

“People of different faiths now interact to a degree that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors”.

“I pray for a world where prejudice is finally eliminated. The Bishops of Australia commit to working for this”. Nostra Aetate speaks to the partnership of faith and reason in human life” he said.


Archbishop Fisher speaks from the bima

In his address Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton, Chief Minister of The Great Synagogue said” We can explore together what it means to be people of faith. The details of the faith do not matter. What is important is that we share the experience of being bound to obligations outside the human or material, of facing a world in which many people are impatient or intolerant of such beliefs, struggling to reconcile our faith commitments with personal feeling or inclinations which can conflict.

President of The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies Jeremy Spinak said: “The very first words of the document we come here today to celebrate immediately give effect to its gravity and importance. These words give the document life beyond the page and meaning beyond the era in which it was written. It lays forth a perpetual responsibility, designed so that future generations read it and say yes, “in our time”…in my time. It’s a call to act.

We are all here today to commemorate this anniversary and reaffirm our belief in the declaration’s spirit because we recognise that this is OUR time.

This is our time to continue to foster and grow the relationship between the Jewish and Catholic communities in Australia.

Our time to continue to strengthen our bonds of friendship ever closer—and while we may not worship the lord with the same voice I believe that we have shown time and time against that we do, as the scripture says, stand shoulder to shoulder.

Today’s event is a testament to our ever growing bond…hours of study, of discussion, of engagement. I believe we are proving ourselves worthy inheritors of the documents traditions. I would like to thank everyone involved in today’s event from the organising committee to the speakers, to the participants.

And I am sure you all agree with me that in Archbishop Fisher and Rabbi Elton, we have two leaders of the Catholic and Jewish Communities respectively who embody all of the hopes that the authors of the document would have had for the catholic and jewish peoples in the years to follow.

Nostra Aetate, in our time.

It is our time to work together as two strong and vibrant peoples to stand up for those who have no voice, who are collectively blamed because of their religion or race, for those who suffer disadvantage and discrimination and for those who long for peace. We cannot celebrate the strength of the relationship between the catholic and Jewish faiths brought about by Nostra aetate without also acknowledging that it applies beyond our partnership. That the words “he who does not love cannot know god” calls on us to extend the hand of friendship to all and that we must work together to continually heal communal divides and break down societies prejudice… in our time.

We thank our Catholic friends for their support and friendship in Sydney over many years, and we all know that challenges still remain. That this document was never going to be as Cardinal Walter Kasper once wrote “the beginning of the end of religious antisemitism” but instead it could be “the beginning of the beginning” a journey of developing positive relations between the world’s two oldest faiths. And a beginning it was.

Tonight we continue the journey the document started and remember that one thing that nostra aetate represents above all is hope. In one brave and courageous act 2000 years of violence, hatred, misunderstanding and despair was replaced with a move to peace. There must have been many times throughout the history of jewish/catholic relations where peace seemed so completely out of reach, where the two sides seemed at either end of irreconcilable divides.

But here we all are… standing together in peace.

So let the example of the last 50 years give us the strength to hope, to hope for peace…in our time.

A Joint Statement was signed by Archbishop Fisher, Jeremy Spinak, NSWJBD and Peter Wertheim, ECAJ.

Photos by Giovanni Portelli. Used with permission Catholic Communications, Archdiocese of Sydney.




3 Responses to “50th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate”
  1. Gil Solomon says:

    A gathering of good Jew boys who will still not face up to reality of the teachings of the Christian Gospels.

    It is crystal clear.
    Under Catholicism Jews are guilty of deicide, the killing of “God”!!
    Until the Catholic Church comes out and repudiates this dogma in clear unambiguous language, all the good and pleasant talk about inter-faith harmony is just that, all talk, meaningless chatter.

    That duplicitous piece of work the “Nostra Aetate” simply states that Jews of today are not guilty of what their ancestors did, thereby making Jews in general, in the eyes of the average gentile, still believe that “Jews killed Jesus”. The reality is that the actions attributed by Catholicism against the biblical Sanhedrin is a work of anti-Semitic fiction and the Catholic hierarchy needs to come to grips with this and publicly say so.

    • Paul Winter says:

      You are perfectly correct Gil, but admitting that the charge of deicide was false would go against Christian (not just Catholic) dogma and undermine Christian belief in supersession, being the new chosen of God. The best we can expect is that after the Shoah showing how shallow Christian professions of love and forgiveness are, those who survived are no longer condemned as guilty of killing their God and hence subject to punishment.

      The problem is that these interfaith meetings are meaningless. All people should respect the beliefs of others (as long as they conform to Western norms i.e. to Jewish standards), but interfaith meetings should cease. As a Jew, I hold Jewish dogma to be as true (as any unquestionable set of beliefs is true) and I reject all non-Jewish beliefs as others reject mine.

      The point about deicide, which Nostra Aetate, did not repudiate, is that even if it was true, it was the decree of their God who chose to sacrifice his son to take on the sins of those who believed in that mystery and through that death and belief gain eternal life. That makes the Jews of Jesus’ time the agents of the Christian God and the persecution of their descendants a sin against their God’s plan to save believers and an unforgivable act of ingratitude for gaining eternal life, at least, according to their faith.

  2. Lynne Newington says:

    Rabbi R.Brasch [Temple Emanuel] from what I’ve read in his book The Star of David would be most comfortable in their presence, a man before his time.

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