Nostra Aetate: A Catholic and Jewish Peace Treaty or a Spiritual Breakthrough?
Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life
In honor of the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, Boston College professor of philosophy James Bernauer, SJ, spoke at the Boisi Center on October 14. This groundbreaking encyclical explores the Catholic Church’s relationship with other faith traditions. In particular, it discusses the Church’s relationship with members of the Jewish faith and rejects the charge that Jews are responsible for killing Christ. Nostra Aetate formalizes the growing solidarity between these two Abrahamic faiths and condemns anti-semitism.
Bernauer, also director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at BC, began the luncheon by describing Pope Francis’ role in promoting interfaith dialogue. He highlighted Pope Francis’ address to members of the International Council for Christians and Jews in Rome in June. At the council, the pope acknowledged the importance of Nostra Aetate for the Church.
Bernauer then described the development of Nostra Aetate, from the International Conference of Christians and Jews that took place in Seelisberg, Switzerland in 1947 to its official promulgation in late 1965. He highlighted the landmark encounter between Rabbi Abraham Heschel and Cardinal Augustin Bea in 1963. In addition, Bernauer noted that a few of Bea’s advisors were Jewish converts to Catholicism. These individuals, along with discussions with Jewish leaders, influenced Bea’s formulation of the document. While the Holocaust is never mentioned in Nostra Aetate, Bernauer maintained that the text was written in part because of a growing recognition of the atrocity.
Bernauer emphasized that Nostra Aetate continues to provide a foundation for Jewish-Christian relations today, even 50 years after its release.