Dialogika

Walter Cardinal Kasper

Address on the 37th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate

October 28 is a very important date in the hearts of Jews and Christians. In that day, thirty-six years ago, the Ecumenical Council Vatican II approved, after years of hard work and much effort, Nostra Aetate, the statement by which the Catholic Church intended to mark a new approach to religions and to Judaism. In the works of the Council, the link between the brotherly attitude towards Jews and the brotherly attitude towards all believers is dictated by various reasons: if, on one side, the need for purification and penitence for the tragic effects of anti-Semitism, to which the Church has not been completely estranged, was strong, on the other it wanted to stress that the state of current concrete political affairs was such as to urge not to forget that the disquieting and pacifying mystery inscribed in every man’s heart addressed Christians in all parts of the vast worlds, where precious legacies of faith and hope are expressed in the great religions.

Since 1965 many things have occurred. In our memory we want to especially retain the meeting in Assisi fifteen years ago, the pilgrimage of the Pope to Jerusalem, the many encounters that at every level have made possible a respectful and blessed exchange: through these, rediscovering fraternity, we Catholics became aware with greater clarity that the faith of Israel is that of our elder brothers, and, most importantly, that Judaism is as a sacrament of every otherness that as such the Church must learn to discern, recognize and celebrate. It is therefore proper in this date for the Pontifical Council to welcome and to encourage any initiative favouring the growth of a bond with Judaism, with its theological and spiritual wealth, and with the culture that is expressed by it. From this starting point – in theological dialogue, in daily diplomatic relationships in the cultural contact of public opinions – it is possible to embark again on the development of a fruitful encounter.

Today, under the weight of mournful and horrifying events of war, everything appears more arduous: from the city of Jerusalem, dear to the heart and the lips of every man of peace, to many other cities in the United States and the world, it seems that what Nostra Aetate and the solemnity of the supreme conciliar teaching wanted to teach the Church has suddenly been overrun by current events. But this is precisely the moment to start again and October 28 marks this effort towards hope, which is more powerful than the fears and the mistakes that have been committed in the past and will be committed in the future.

I am therefore thankful to those who made this encounter possible in Villa Piccolomini and have so kindly invited me to come. I am very sorry that prior ecumenical engagements do not allow me to assist to an event that, while celebrating the grace of the Council, also recalls the courage of those who, in war-time Turkey, have had the courage to help Jews escape Nazi and Fascist genocide, contributing, without knowing, to the preparation of the spirit with which the future Pope John XXIII made the Catholic Church undertake a crucial step in its history. I thank the organizers, the speakers, the excellencies of the diplomatic corps present and all participants who with this cultural event help to revive memory.

More so: allow me to recommend them to insist in celebrating this date in a cultural and artistic manner, so that in the years to come October 28 may not be forgotten and may on the contrary remain an invocation for peace in the Church, in Israel, in the world. To this end I can assure that, in the hopes that this proposal of mine may find an echo, I will, starting from now, keep October 28 free on my agenda.