Friday, December 09, 2005

The Hireling Report #40

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Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

'Nostra Aetate' reverberates

Session at Nazareth assesses impact of Catholic paper on other religions

Matthew Daneman
Staff writer

(December 8, 2005) — PITTSFORD — Gone are the days when Catholics couldn't attend weddings in non-Catholic churches.

And gone are the days when all Jews were considered responsible for Jesus Christ's crucifixion.

From the mundane to the major, Catholic life has changed significantly in the 40 years since the "Nostra Aetate."

"What the Roman Catholic Church produced was really quite significant," said Joseph Kelly, professor of religious studies at Nazareth College. "This church that has difficulty in changing did in fact change and brought wonderful things in terms of fruit."

The "Nostra Aetate" — essentially a reinvention of the Catholic Church's relationship to non-Christian religions — went into effect Oct. 28, 1965. To mark the occasion and discuss the significance, Nazareth's Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue hosted a discussion Wednesday. In attendance were roughly four dozen Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, Hindu and Jewish local leaders and laypeople.

Nostra Aetate grew out of a directive of Pope John XXIII that the church put together a declaration on its relation to Israelis, Kelly said. The effort eventually grew into a sweeping new policy concerning all non-Christians as part of the Second Vatican Council reforms.

"The document broke from the church's rather narrow-minded past," said Rochester Roman Catholic Bishop Matthew Clark.

The results, however, have been mixed.

While Jews saw the declaration with "a great deal of thankfulness," many also saw it as falling short, said Rabbi Alan Katz, president of the Rochester Board of Rabbis. "It leaves out all of the tremendous amount of anti-Semitism and brutality directed toward the Jewish people," he said. "This was a result of a history of anti-Semitism promoted by various church teachings."

The message of "Nostra Aetate" needs to be emphasized more "in the pews in Africa, in Asia, in parts of Europe, where there are lingering misunderstandings if not outright anti-Semitism," Katz said. But, he added, "it also has to go into the Jewish world, where the average Jew has to know the tremendous steps taken by the church."

It was "Nostra Aetate" that helped spawn a plethora of interfaith efforts in the Rochester area, said Aly Nahas, a founding member of the Islamic Center of Rochester.

"All these groups and maybe others came along as a result of a new spirit that dawned in Rochester since the 1980s," Nahas said.

"This is what the "Nostra Aetate" hoped to accomplish."


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