Nostra aetate: paving the way for interreligious dialogue - Vatican News (2023)

In the past there were discussions about the interpretation of the Council texts. Now, the Vatican's own documents are sometimes called into question. Let us remember a document that marked the history of the Church.

Andrew Tornielli

The Conciliar Declarationat our age– Approved by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council and approved by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965. promulgated - marked an irreversible turning point in relations between the Catholic Church and Judaism following the steps taken by Pope John XXIII . The result of a long and careful writing process, it also significantly changed Catholicism's approach to non-Christian religions and is considered the foundational text for dialogue with other religions.

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The unique relationship between Christianity and Judaism

The central axis of the Declaration is the relationship with Judaism: “Deepening into the mystery of the Church, the Holy Synod recalls the bond that spiritually unites the people of the New Covenant with the tribe of Abraham... From the spiritual inheritance, that Christians and Christians Jews have so much in common that this Holy Synod wants to promote and encourage that mutual understanding and respect that is above all the fruit of biblical and theological study and fraternal dialogue” (NA, 4). These words acknowledge the Jewish roots of Christianity and the unique relationship that exists between the Christian faith and Judaism, as John Paul II stressed in April 1986 during his visit to the synagogue in Rome. As a theologian, Joseph Ratzinger also pondered this issue; and when he visited the same synagogue inJanuary 2010, recalled as Bishop of Rome: “For Catholics, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council represents a clear milestone, constantly referred to in our attitude and relationship with the Jewish people, and marks a new and important stage. The Council gave a strong impetus to our irrevocable commitment to continue on the path of dialogue, brotherhood and friendship..."

Stop accusations of deicide

Another crucial statement in the statement concerns the condemnation of anti-Semitism. While denouncing "the hatred, the persecutions, the anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at all times and by all", the Council's declaration also declares that the responsibility for the death of Jesus should not be attributed to all Jews: "Indeed, the Jewish rulers and those who followed their leadership insisted on the death of Christ, however, what happened in his Passion cannot be attributed indistinctly to all the Jews of that time, nor to the Jews of today” (NA, 4).

Rays of truth reflected in other religions

In its opening section, which deals with Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions in general,at our ageexplains that "they try to counteract the agitation of the human heart, each in their own way, proposing 'paths' that embrace doctrines, rules of life and sacred rites." this is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways and lives, those commandments and teachings, which, though in many different respects from those she defends and expounds, often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men and women" (yes, 2).

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Appreciation for followers of Islam

An important paragraph is dedicated to the Islamic faith: “The Church also treats Muslims with respect. They adore the only God who lives and subsists in himself; merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who spoke to men; they strive to wholeheartedly submit even to his unfathomable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam is affectionately associated, submitted to God. Although they do not recognize Jesus as God, they worship him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, her virgin mother; sometimes they even call her devotedly. They also look forward to Judgment Day, when God will restore his dignity to all who have risen from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and adore God above all through prayer, charity and fasting” (NA, 3).

Paul VI and the "Confessors of the Muslim Faith"

Several popes took significant steps in dialogue with the Islamic world in the years after the our age. Among them were the words that Paul VI. spoke during his visit to Uganda in the summer of 1969Dignitaries and representatives of Islam, the Pope paid tribute to the first African Christian martyrs and made a comparison that linked the "teachers of the Muslim faith" with the martyrdom suffered by the rulers of the local tribes: "We are sure that we are in communion with you", said while we implore the Most High to awaken in the hearts of all the believers in Africa the desire for reconciliation and forgiveness so recommended in the Gospel and in the Koran". with life in 1848 for refusing to transgress the commandments of their religion?

"descendants of Abraham"

In November 1979, when Pope John Paul II met with the small Catholic community in Ankara, Turkey, he reaffirmed the Church's appreciation of Islam. "Faith in God - he said -, professed jointly by the descendants of Abraham - Christians, Muslims and Jews -, when lived and made to live with sincerity, is the sure foundation of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom of society. woman and the principle of good customs and social coexistence, and also: as a result of this belief in the creator and transcendent God, man is at the pinnacle of creation.

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Die Rede in Casablanca

Pope John Paul IIAddress to young Muslims, held in August 1985 in Casablanca, Morocco, was another milestone on this path. "We Christians and Muslims have a lot in common, as believers and as human beings," she said on this occasion. “We live in the same world marked by many signs of hope, but also by many signs of fear. For us, Abraham is a true example of faith in God, submission to his will and trust in his goodness. We believe in the same God, the only God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to perfection." Pope John Paul II emphasized: “Today, dialogue between Christians and Muslims is more necessary than ever. It springs from our fidelity to God and presupposes that we know how to recognize God in faith and bear witness to him with words and deeds in a world that is increasingly secularized and sometimes even atheistic”.

To Assisi with João Paulo and Bento

The following year, on October 27, 1986, the Pope invited representatives of the world's religions to come to Assisi to pray for the threatened peace. The Assisi meeting has become a symbol of dialogue and joint commitment of believers of different religions. “The gathering of so many religious leaders for prayer”, said Pope John Paul IIChance, “Today is in itself an invitation to the world to realize that there is another dimension of peace and another way to promote it that is not the result of negotiation, political compromise or economic negotiation. It is the result of prayer that expresses, in the diversity of religions, a relationship with a supreme power that is beyond our human capacities.

celebrations of25th birthdayOn the occasion of the Assisi event, Pope Benedict XVI. of the threat of misusing God's name to justify hatred and violence, pointing to the use of violence by Christians throughout history: "We acknowledge this with great shame," he said. However, he continued: “The denial of God has led to excessive cruelty and excessive violence, which will only be possible when man no longer recognizes any criteria or judges about himself, but only has himself as his own criteria. . The horrors of the concentration camps clearly reveal the consequences of the absence of God.

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From the Council to the Abu Dhabi Document

The Conciliar Declarationat our ageIt concludes with a paragraph dedicated to “universal brotherhood”: “We cannot truly invoke God the Father of all if we refuse to treat a man created in the image of God in brotherhood. Man's relationship with God the Father and man's relationship with man's brothers are so intertwined that Scripture says: "He who does not love has not known God." and man, man and man, in terms of his human dignity and the rights that derive from it ”(NA, 5).

This tradition is reflected in theDocument on Human Fraternitysigned by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, on February 4, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, beginning: “In the name of God, who created all human beings with rights, duties and equal dignity, and who called them to live together as brothers and sisters, filling the earth and making known the values ​​of goodness, love and peace”.


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