Catholic World News News Feature
Observances set for Nostra Aetate anniversary September 23, 2005
The Pontifical Gregorian University is organizing an international seminar to mark the 40th anniversary of the landmark Vatican II document Nostra Aetate . The Vatican is planning a separate event, under the auspices of the commission for religious relations with Jews.
Speaking at a September 23 press conference at the Gregorian University, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, sketched out plans for the two events. The Gregorian seminar will be held September 25 to 28; the Vatican observation will be October 17: the eve of the actual anniversary.
The ceremony at the Vatican will be hosted by Cardinal Walter Kasper, who heads the committee for relations with Jews. Archbishop Fitzgerald characterized that ceremony as a "commemoration" of the Vatican II document, whereas the Gregorian seminar is designed to stimulate reflection on how Nostra Aetate changed relations between Catholics and Jews.
Last week-- on September 15-- the two grand rabbis of Israel visited Pope Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo, on a trip that was scheduled in honor of the anniversary of Nostra Aetate. During their meeting with the Pontiff, the rabbis suggested that October 28, the date when the document was published in 1965, should be a day set aside each year for remembering the suffering of Jews, and encouraging the fight to eliminate anti-Semitism.
The Vatican ceremony slated for October 27 was planned well in advance of the rabbis' visit, a Vatican official observed. Joseph Sievers, who heads the Cardinal Bea Center, dedicated to the study of Judaism and promotion of ties with Jewish universities, also observed that the notion of a day set aside for commemoration of Jewish Holocaust victims is not a new one. Such days are already observed, he said, in Poland, Austria, and Germany.
The Gregorian University seminar will bring together more than 100 specialists on inter-religious dialogue. The first full day, September 26, will be devoted specifically to relations between Christians and Jews. The second day will consider the relations between Christians and other faiths, especially the leading religions of Asia. On the final day, discussions will turn toward relations with Islam. Archbishop Fitzgerald reminded reporters that Nostra Aetate was not one of the document originally expected to emerge from the Second Vatican Council. A more restricted focus on relations with Judaism was anticipated. But when some Council fathers objected to that limited focus, the scope of the document was expanded to include relations with non-Christian faiths in general.