A meeting was held in Rome yesterday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Vatican Council II's Declaration "Nostra aetate," which deals with the Church's relations with non-Christian religions.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, Rabbi David Rosen, international director for inter-religious affairs of the American Jewish Committee, and Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop emeritus of Paris, France took part, together with representatives of international Jewish institutions, members of the Roman Curia and of the diplomatic corps to the Holy See.
The meeting, which organized by the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, began with a morning session dedicated to reflecting upon the initiatives and events that have characterised the post-conciliar period, and upon the development of religious relations between Catholics and Jews. The discussion also turned to the most appropriate ways to develop further reciprocal understanding and cooperation between the two faiths. In the evening, a message from the Holy Father was read out by Cardinal Walter Kasper saying that Nostra Aetate had "opened up a new era of relations with the Jewish people and offered the basis for a sincere theological dialogue."
The Vatican II document, Pope Benedict said, rightly emphasised the need to "overcome past prejudices misunderstandings, indifference, and the language of contempt and hostility." That effort was particularly important, he said, after the tragedy of the Holocaust, "which was inspired by a neo-pagan racist ideology." The Vatican Council, he said, encouraged Christians and Jews "to recognise their shared spiritual roots and to appreciate their rich heritage of faith in the One God."
He concluded the message with an expression of hope that "Christians and Jews will offer an ever more compelling shared witness to the One God and his commandments." Pope Benedict XVI has made relations with Jews a high priority of his pontificate. The first message that he sent to any religious leader after his papal election in April 2005 was a greeting to Rome's chief rabbi, Ricardo de Segni. He has subsequently made a series of friendly gestures toward Jews, such as his visit to a synagogue in Cologne on August 19.