It has been 50 years since the Second Vatican Council made a landmark declaration about relations between the Catholic Church and non-Christians dubbed “Nostra Aetate” or In Our Age.
On Thursday, Jewish and Catholic leaders gathered at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens to celebrate the historic document that paved the way for healthy dialogue between both religions.
“For 2,000 years Christians looked at [Jews] as downtrodden, rejects,” said Rabbi Solomon Schiff, executive vice president emeritus of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami. “Nostre Aetate changed that concept.”
The conference, a joint effort by St. Thomas University, the American Jewish Committee and the Archdiocese of Miami, included speeches from Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, and Rabbi Noam E. Marans, director of interreligious and intergroup relations for the American Jewish Committee.
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Auza showed a video clip of Pope Francis commemorating the 50th anniversary of the document in Rome.
“Tonight we are celebrating something historic,” Auza said, stressing that both faiths continue to build the relationship. “We have inherited this document. What can we do to spread it more?”
In the five decades since Pope Paul VI promulgated the declaration on Oct. 28, 1965, there has been significant progress, both Catholic and Jewish leaders said Thursday.
Schiff cited a visit to Miami on Sept. 11, 1987, by Pope John Paul II. As part of that visit, the pontiff met with hundreds of American Jewish leaders and announced a Vatican reflection on the Holocaust and affirmed the Jewish people’s right to a homeland.
“It is not as if there aren’t still differences, but they are resolved or at least discussed among friends,” Marans said.
Joint interfaith discussions are not uncommon. In May, a South Florida delegation of rabbis, Catholic priests and laity participated in an international gathering in Israel that included 120 rabbis, seven cardinals, 25 bishops, 50 priests and 75 lay church leaders.
Among discussion topics: Catholicism and Judaism in today’s world, anti-Semitism and anti-Christianity and the threat of radical religious fundamentalism.