Catholic-Jewish Relations Marked by Hope and Joy in Joint Statement

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
18 Mar 2016

Jewish and Catholic leaders gather in Sydney for the Launch of the Joint Statement reaffirming
the declaration of Nostra Aetate - In Our Time

Another significant step in Catholic - Jewish relations was marked this week in Sydney when Catholic, Jewish and other faith leaders came together for the launch of the Nostra Aetate Joint Statement. The Joint Statement is the fruit of growing friendship and meaningful dialogue between Catholic and Jewish leaders and arose from the 50th Anniversary of the Nostra Aetate Vatican declaration which was celebrated with a conference at The Great Synagogue in Sydney last October.

The event on Wednesday night at Mary MacKillop Place was attended by Archbishop Christopher Prowse, Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn and Chairman of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Relations, and Sr Giovanni Farquer RSJ, Executive Director of the Archdiocese of Sydney's Commission of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. Jewish leaders present included Mr Jeremy Spinak, President of the Jewish Board of Deputies and Peter Wertheim Vice President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

Sr Giovanni Farquer reads a statement from Archbishop Fisher at the Launch of the Joint Statement

Dr Elsie Heiss opened the evening with a moving welcome to country and Mr Julian Leeser, Director, Government, Policy and Strategy from Australian Catholic University chaired the event.

Sr Giovanni Farquer read a statement from Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, Archbishop of Sydney who was unable to be present due to his ongoing recovery from illness. The Archbishop affirmed the important work of ongoing dialogue between Catholics, Jews and those of other faiths saying "We have come so far, but have a long way to go". He recalled his words at the conclusion of his address at the 50th Anniversary commemorative event, "There is no room for apathy or disengagement, partiality or pessimism.  Dialogue and collaboration are no longer optional extras. They are the will of Almighty God for all of humanity and vital for peace in the world."

The Honourable Justice Francois Kunc (KCHS EOHSJ) read the Joint Statement for all present and cautioned that documents, as seminal as they are, cannot replace personal encounters and face to face dialogue. He suggested the Joint Statement presented a model of reconciliation to the modern world and outlined the immense possibilities that could be achieved.

The Joint Statement reaffirms the principles of Nostra Aetate and contextualises them in the Catholic and Jewish communities of Australia, acknowledging their common heritage as the children in faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Joint Statement professes a common commitment to honour the past and memory of the Jewish and Christian peoples including the pioneers of dialogue and the gracious response of reconciliation. It celebrates the mutual understanding and respect that has grown into a deep and enriching friendship and reaffirms a commitment to ongoing dialogue and recognition of the rights and dignity of Jews and Christians as beloved children of God. The statement proclaims a joyous "yes" to continued dialogue and an irrevocable "no" to antisemitism and religious discrimination of any kind.

Supporters of interfaith relations gather at Mary MacKillop Place to reaffirm the principles
of Nostra Aetate

Both Jeremy Spinak and Peter Wertheim offered comments on the Joint Statement and shared their heartfelt and sincere wishes for the Archbishop's speedy recovery, a testament to the already strong relationship between the faith leaders.

Archbishop Prowse followed with some reflections on Nostra Aetate and the Joint Statement recalling his time in Rome on the 50th Anniversary whilst the celebrations took place concurrently in Sydney. He echoed the sentiment of the celebrations in Rome which reaffirmed the joy and hope that the gift of Nostra Aetate has brought to the arena of interfaith relations for the past 50 years.

Nostra Aetate (In Our Time) was a short but landmark declaration, one of sixteen statements issued by the Second Vatican Council which opened the Church to living dialogue with Jews and people of other faiths. The Declaration issued by the Council Fathers on 28 October 1965 consisted of five sections. Firstly it comprised a statement on the unity of the human family and the innate spiritual impulse of all people; then a brief description of various religions with the statement that the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions; thirdly there is a positive section treating Islam; followed by a substantive section on Judaism recalling the spiritual ties between Christians and Jews and condemning anti-Semitism unequivocally and finally; and lastly a rejection of discrimination in all its forms.

Mr Jeremy Spinak reflects upon the importance of the Joint Statement for Catholic-Jewish relations

On the 50th Anniversary of the promulgation of Nostra Aetate a full-day conference was held at The Great Synagogue in Sydney with the purpose of honouring the past, present and future of Christian-Jewish relations. The conference held on 28 October 2015 was hosted by Australian Catholic University, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, Executive Council of Australian Jewry, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Jewish and Christian academics presented on the day on a range of topics to help break open the richness of Nostra Aetate and affirm its ongoing relevance to interfaith dialogue 50 years on.

Keynote presentations were given by the Most Reverend Anthony Fisher OP, Archbishop of Sydney and Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton, Chief Minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney.

At the end of the conference the Joint Statement was signed by Archbishop Fisher and Mr Jeremey Spinak. It was endorsed by Archbishop Christopher Prowse and Mr Robert Goot AM SC, President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

A DVD copy of all the presentations from the 50th Anniversary commemorative event at the The Great Synagogue on 28 October 2015 is available for purchase. To order please email

Read the Archbishops full statement to mark the launch of the Joint Statement here.

Photos by Giovanni Portelli