|Father Gervan Menezes, the chaplain at Father Ryan High School, claps as Father James Norman Miller, a retired priest of the Diocese of Nashville, joins members of the Jewish and Catholic Communities as they dance together at the end of the Seder. Photos by Rick Musacchio|
With the promulgation of “Nostra Aetate,” the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church’s view of other faiths, particularly Judaism, made a dramatic pivot.
The document, in a reversal of nearly 2,000 years of recrimination, suspicion and discrimination, proclaims that the death of Christ cannot be charged “against all the Jews” and Jews should not be represented as rejected by God. It also spoke against anti-Semitism and encouraged mutual understanding and esteem.
The promulgation of “Nostra Aetate” in October 1965 set the stage for the last 50 years of dialogue and improving relations between the Church and Judaism. Members of the Jewish and Catholic communities in Middle Tennessee recently paid homage to the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the document by gathering for a Passover Seder.
“The event was magnificent,” said Bishop David Choby. “It was a wonderful evening bringing both the Catholic and Jewish community together. Everyone seemed to be genuinely delighted with the effort.”
|Greg Karn, director of religious education at St. Stephen Church in Old Hickory, and his wife Mary watch the lighting of the Festival of Candles during the Passover Seder hosted by the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. The event brought together members of the Catholic and Jewish communities to mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council document “Nostra Aetate” on the Catholic Church’s relations with Judaism and other world religions. The document represented a major shift in the relations between Catholics and Jews.|
Every year the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee hosts Passover Seder centered on a different theme to help build bridges with other communities. This year, Bishop Choby and representatives of the Jewish community worked to use the event to mark the anniversary of “Nostra Aetate.”
The document “shed light on the Church’s understanding of its relationship with world religions. It specifically however, devotes an entire chapter to the question of the relationship of Catholicism and Judaism,” Bishop Choby said. “The significance of that is it expresses the Church’s realization of the fundamental connection between the Christian faith and the Judaic faith, and consequently the Church wanted to highlight that relationship since it’s out of Judaism that Christianity emerged.”
Although promulgated by Blessed Paul VI on Oct. 28, 1965, the first draft of “Nostra Aetate” was commissioned by St. John XXIII under the direction of Cardinal Augustin Bea. The draft, originally entitled “Decretum de Iudaeis” (“Decree on the Jews”), “only addressed the issue of the responsibility of Christians” during the Holocaust, said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He was one of the speakers at a conference last fall on the document’s anniversary sponsored by the Pontifical council and the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews.
In the end, the final two articles of the document addressed the Catholic Church’s relationship with the Jewish people while the initial articles of the declaration highlight the church’s relations with other world religions.
|Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, above, professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School, was one of the featured speakers.|
Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews, said during the conference that the document’s discussion of Christianity’s relationship with Judaism was not only a starting point “but the hinge of the whole council declaration.”
“The fourth article of ‘Nostra Aetate’ should be considered the ‘Magna Carta’ of Judeo-Catholic dialogue,” he said. “For the first time in history, the ecumenical council expressed itself so explicitly and positively with regard to the relationship between the Catholic Church and Judaism.”
The Swiss cardinal also noted that “Nostra Aetate” not only mentioned “practical and pragmatic prospects,” but placed the relationship between Catholicism and Judaism inside a “theological context” based on “solid biblical foundations.”
“For us as Catholics it’s very apparent how dependent our history is on the fact that so much of our life reflects its Jewish roots, both in terms of scripture but also in terms of the way we pray,” Bishop Choby said.
|Bishop David Choby, at right, was one of the guest speakers at the event. Listening is Rabbi Mark Schiftan, Senior Rabbi at Congregation Ohabai Sholom, who officiated the Seder.|
One of the developments since the Second Vatican Council began considering the document is that four popes have visited Jerusalem and the Holy Land, Bishop Choby noted: Blessed Paul VI in 1964, St. John Paul II in 2000, Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 and Pope Francis in 2014.
Comboni Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the interreligious dialogue office, said during the conference on the document’s anniversary that while much has been done since the its publication, there is still much more to do in advancing relations between the Catholic Church and non-Christian religions.
“So many words have been said but there has also been much silence,” Father Ayuso said. “The path indicated by ‘Nostra Aetate’ is still of great relevance and, as it says in the declaration, still today we are exhorted to recognize, preserve and advance all the spiritual, moral and socio-cultural values found in religions.”
The Passover Seder is a Jewish ritual feast that marks the beginning of Passover. It is performed by a community or by multiple generations of a family, and includes the retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The customs of the Seder include telling the story, discussing the story, drinking four cups of wine, eating matza, partaking of symbolic foods and reclining in celebration of freedom.
This year’s Passover Seder, which drew more than 300 people, was held Tuesday, April 12, at the Gordon Jewish Community Center in Nashville. Bishop Choby and Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, a professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School, spoke during the event. Rabbi Mark Schiftan, Senior Rabbi at Congregation Ohabai Sholom (The Temple) in Nashville, officiated the Seder.