Half-a-century since Nostra Aetate

FIFTY years after Nostra Aetate, what does the future of interfaith dialogue between the next ­generation of Jews, Christians and other faith groups hold? That’s what the Great Synagogue’s Rabbi Dr Ben Elton will discuss in his keynote address marking 50 years of the landmark document this Wednesday, October 28.

The commemoration – co-hosted by the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD), the Australian Catholic University and the Sydney Jewish Museum (SJM) – falls exactly half-a-century after the Second Vatican Council handed down the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-Christian religions, a groundbreaking document that transformed Jewish-Catholic relations.

Held at the Great Synagogue, the event will also hear from the Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher, among others.

Speaking to The AJN this week, Rabbi Elton said Nostra Aetate was “a real turning point in the relationship between Jews and the Catholic Church”.

“The repudiation by the Church of Jewish collective guilt for the death of Jesus put relations between Jews and Catholics in a whole different light,” he said.

“Although we’re never going to agree on matters of faith and religion … we have many groups of different faiths who can approach each other as equals and with respect, and that’s what Nostra Aetate did 50 years ago. That’s very inspiring.”

Stating that often “we fear and hate people we don’t know and don’t understand”, Rabbi Elton said the key to defusing fear, hatred and tension that can exist between communities that aren’t familiar with each other is to have meetings and relationships.

Encouraging members of the community to attend this “very important event”, he noted that Nostra Aetate was drafted by an archbishop from Sydney.

“This is something for people of Sydney to take pride in,” Rabbi Elton said. “This is something that Catholics can be very proud about because they made great strides in healing the relationship between Catholics and Jews, and Jews can look back and see this was the start of a much more positive relationship which has been continuing ever since.”

JBOD CEO Vic Alhadeff said occurring at a time of terrible conflicts in so many parts of the world, the occasion stands “as a mark of the ability of faiths and peoples to work together, given goodwill and mutual respect”.

SJM education manager Yotam Weiner said it was astounding that 1965 years of Christian beliefs were reflected on and revised, “proving that humans and age old institutions are capable of change”.

To register for the event, email [email protected].