Pope Francis stands between Jewish and Muslim religious leaders during a prayer service at the ground zero 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York Sept. 25. Father John W. Crossin, executive director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said, "This event is symbolic and is iconic. It's a healing message." CNS photo/Paul Haring

Canadian bishop says 'Nostra Aetate' can help achieve peace, justice

By  Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service
  • October 13, 2015

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Second Vatican Council's declaration on the church's relations with non-Christian religions is helping Catholics to build a world of peace, said the chairman of the Canadian bishops' committee on interfaith relations.

Bishop Claude Champagne of Edmundston, New Brunswick, said the declaration, "Nostra Aetate" ("In Our Time"), advised Catholics to respect and reach out to their non-Christian neighbors. "'Nostra Aetate' is helping us to have another vision of the other people. So we try to build on, to have a peaceful society in Canada, to have a society where there will be more social justice," said Bishop Champagne, chairman of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews and Interfaith Dialogue.

"We want to build a world where there will be peace," he told Catholic News Service.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the declaration, the commission issued a 12-page document that reviews the message of "Nostra Aetate," offers a historical context for its development, and provides a glimpse into how interreligious relations can develop in parishes and local communities.

Titled "A Church in Dialogue," the Canadian document places the Vatican II declaration into the context of Pope Francis' papacy, noting that as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, prior to his election as pontiff he was committed to interreligious relations like his predecessors in Rome and closely worked with the Jewish community.

The commission's document is written in easy-to-read language and summarizes each of the five segments of "Nostra Aetate." It was published in French and English and is being distributed to parishes and online.

The Canadian bishops stress that the council's declaration "seeks to highlight the things that Christianity shares in common with other religions, and to emphasize their positive, life-giving aspects, which Christians can appreciate and value."

"Nostra Aetate," the bishops said, "provided a starting point, and not an end point" for discussions that have served to deepen Catholic understanding of other religious traditions.

Bishop Champagne said the commission's document was published to let Canadian Catholics know that the church has long worked to foster strong interreligious relations.

"Surely there are people in the Catholic Church who are not aware of these developments. The document like the one we prepared is helping people to create awareness," he said.

Like the United States, Canada is experiencing its own growth in immigrant populations. Major urban hubs such as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, British Columbia, are seeing an influx of people from Muslim-majority countries as well as Mexicans and Latin Americans, but not on the same scale as some U.S. cities.

"A Church in Dialogue" was written to help Canadian Catholics remain open and welcoming to the newcomers, Bishop Champagne said.

Raising awareness of the Vatican II declaration also can help Catholics better appreciate the teachings of their own faith in an increasingly secular society, he added.

Next steps for the commission call for working with other religions in confronting secularism and the decline in participation in religious practices.

"Can we do something about that together to promote the awareness of the transcendent?" the bishop asked. "How do we transmit our faith and our belief in a secularized world?

“Every day I speak with Jewish leaders," he added. "They say it's a challenge to transmit our faith to our youth, as it is a challenge to transmit our Catholic faith to our youth."

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.