- Nostra Aetate: Celebrating 50 Years of the Catholic Church’s Dialogue with Jews and Muslims ed. by Pim Valkenberg and Anthony Cirelli
The fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) was celebrated at The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, DC in May 2015. The proceedings have been edited by two of the organizers of the meeting in a handsome volume with almost all of the speeches and lectures at the conference.
Although the early drafts for this document were focused on the Jewish people, the final version became the fourth section of the Council’s Declaration promulgated by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965. The order of the Declaration’s contents is followed in the conference proceedings, preceded by three introductory essays on “Historical and Theological Context”: Thomas Stransky explains his new translation of Nostra Aetate; Pim Valkenberg sketches its history and theology; Michael Root outlines its ecumenical implications.
The second section, “Asian Religions,” has brief essays by James L. Fredericks on Buddhism and Francis X. Clooney, SJ, on openness to other religions (Hinduism as example), with a response by Anuttama Dasa.
Section three, “Dialogue with Muslims,” has four essays and five responses plus a reflection by Sayed Hassan Akhlag Hussaini, a researcher at The Catholic University of America. Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue) reviews the church’s dialogue with Islam since the Council, with a response by [End Page 65] Seyyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington University. Nasr’s essay has a response by Father Sidney Griffith (emeritus, CUA). Sayyid M. Syeed’s essay receives responses from Bishop Denis Madden of Baltimore and Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, former President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Section four, “Dialogue with Jews,” begins with a report by Cardinal Kurt Koch (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) on international dialogue, with a comprehensive response by Rabbi Irving Greenberg, a long-time partner in Jewish-Christian relations. Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s sketch of dialogue in the United States is the occasion for Rabbi Noam Marans to consider the responses by the American Jewish Committee, which started without enthusiasm but grew in warmth as the decades progressed.
The fifth and final section, “Local Reception in the United States and the Academy,” presents “The Narrative Dimensions of Interreligious Dialogue” by the Reverend Larry Golemon (Presbyterian) of the Washington Theological Consortium, “Official Jewish-Catholic Conversations in the United States” by the Reverend John W. Crossin, then Executive Director of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, complemented by Anthony Cirelli of the same office on “Recent Developments and Future Possibilities” for such dialogues. Scholarly developments are outlined by Pim Valkenberg in “The Academic Reception of Nostra Aetate.” Judi Longdin shows the impact of dialogue on the diocesan ecumenical-interfaith officer. Ann Garrido of the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri offers an experiential “Pursuing Truth in Dialogue” and Reverend Mark Morozowich concludes the volume with reference to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue’s publication “Dialogue in Truth and Charity: Pastoral Orientations for Interreligious Dialogue” (2014).
The volume ends with a helpful bibliography, a list of contributors, and a general index.
In 283 pages of text, the sections dedicated to Muslims and Jews are 64 and 61 pages respectively. Thus, the net has been cast much more widely than the book’s title indicates, so the book will be helpful to all those with an academic interest in the church’s engagement with other religions.
The reader should recognize that following the order of the text means placing a conference on world religions in a framework that fails to highlight the unique relationship between Christianity and Judaism. In the early decades of interfaith dialogue, the focus was exclusively Christian-Jewish. That means that, in some ways, the development of such exchanges may be more mature...