Photo: Pope Francis with Cardinal Kurt Koch and Rabbi Noam Maran with other members of the American Jewish Committee, 8 March 2019 (Vatican Media).
(Source: Novena/Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity)
The Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews (CRRJ) and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), the official partner representing world Jewry, exchanged messages to mark the 55th anniversary of “Nostra aetate”.
That milestone document was issued on 28 October 1965 as a Declaration of the Second Vatican Council on the Catholic Church’s relations to non–Christian religions.
Chapter 4 specifically addresses Judaism, and is recognized to have inaugurated a new and constructive era in Jewish–Catholic relations.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of CRRJ, and Rabbi Noam Marans, Chair of IJCIC, issued messages affirming the reconciliatory themes of “Nostra aetate” and praising the progress achieved during the past 55 years.
Cardinal Koch’s message states, “It is without doubt that ‘Nostra aetate’ (no.4) laid the foundation for relations between Catholics and Jews and can therefore rightly be considered to be the ‘Magna Carta’ of Catholic–Jewish relations”.
“… [A]fter Pope John Paul II spoke of Jews as the elder brothers of Christians, and Pope Benedict XVI as our fathers in faith… we can speak of a community of brothers and sisters among Jews and Christians”, Cardinal Koch writes.
“We are inseparably linked in the essential foundation of faith in the God of Israel, and we are united by a rich common spiritual heritage and the legacy of a longstanding shared past.
“Christianity has its roots in Judaism; the latter constitutes the nucleus of its identity. Jesus is and remains a son of the people of Israel; he is shaped by that tradition and, for this reason, can only be truly understood in the perspective of this cultural and religious framework”.
Rabbi Marans’s message notes that “Nostra aetate” (no. 4) “has been dramatically amplified by papal visits to synagogues, to the horrific yet sacred sites of the crimes of the Holocaust, and to the State of Israel following the establishment of Vatican–Israel diplomatic relations in 1993”.
Over the past half-century, Catholics and Jews “have experienced and affirmed in our encounter a shared belief that human beings are created in the Divine image (Genesis 1:27) and our destinies are inextricably linked. As we battle a pandemic that does not distinguish between its victims, these values draw us closer as guideposts for our religious lives”, Marans continues.
“At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise and the physical threat to Jewish communities and individuals is very real, we are grateful for the steadfastness of Pope Francis, who has forcefully and repeatedly spoken out against this scourge”.
The CRRJ was founded in 1974, and over the decades it has implemented many initiatives aimed at fostering Catholic relations with Judaism, including the document published in 2015 entitled “The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). A Reflection on Theological Questions Pertaining to Catholic–Jewish Relations on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of ‘Nostra aetate’”.
The Commission also co–convenes with IJCIC the biennial International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee to address ongoing issues of mutual concern.