Nostra Aetate 50th Anniversary Celebrations in Sydney

For the Jewish community, there are few post World War II events more significant than the 1965 Nostra Aetate, the Vatican’s declaration on the relation of the Catholic Church to non-Christian religions.  (The phrase is Latin, and in English simply means “In our time”.)

As the Australian Catholic Church’s official website notes, the:

Document transformed the Church’s attitude towards believers from other religions.  For the first time in history, the Church spoke positively about other religions. The Declaration is widely considered a “watershed” in the relations between Catholics and believers from other religions. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have called it the Magna Carta of the Church’s new attitude and approach to other religions. It continues to inspire and to guide Catholics in forging relationships of mutual respect and collaboration.

Last Wednesday, 28 October 2015, I attended the Sydney evening celebration of this event at Sydney’s Great Synagogue, with the keynote speakers Rabbi Dr Ben Elton (Chief Minister of the Synagogue) and The Most Reverend Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, moderated by Professor Greg Craven, Vice Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University.

One item of note that the press coverage of the event has not picked up on was Professor Craven’s announcement that the Australian Catholic University was planning to establish a Professorial Chair of Jewish-Christian relations.  To my knowledge, this would be a first in Australia, although the model is well-established in the USA, where it has proved to be very valuable at times of communal religious stress.  When the film “The Passion of the Christ” (Mel Gibson, 2004 – and the subject of my PhD thesis) was released, the attendant controversies caused widespread fractures between the Jewish community and certain parts of the Christian communities in the USA, especially the Catholic Church.  A number of the university-based centres for Jewish-Christian relations around the country (such as at Boston College, a Catholic university) provided excellent counterbalances at the time.

The Sydney 50th anniversary event was hosted by the Australian Catholic University, the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Sydney Jewish Museum.  Three images below:

(The event’s flyer)

Nostra Aetate event Sydney flyerThe official 50th anniversary document, with Jeremy Spinak (NSW Jewish Board of Deputies), Peter Wertheim (Executive Council of Australian Jewry), Archbishop Fisher and Rabbi Dr Elton:

Nostra Aetate photo2

Archbishop Fisher, Rabbi Dr Elton and other attendees:

Nostra Aetate photo1(The two photos were taken by Giovanni Portelli, Catholic Communications, Archdiocese of Sydney, and were sourced from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies website page about the event.)
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