Nostra Aetate is a very short document of the Second Vatican Council which speaks about interfaith relations and their importance to the Catholic Church “In our time” which are the first words of the document and its title.
In this age of ours, when men are drawing more closely together and the bonds of friendship between different peoples are being strengthened, the Church examines with greater care the relation which she has to non-Christian religions. Ever aware of her duty to foster unity ad charity among individuals, and even among nations, she reflects at the outset on what men have in common and what tends to promote fellowship among them (NA #1).
The document then speaks of the common humanity and search which religions bring to all who seek God, his will and the pursuit of happiness. The great questions which every human being asks about God, creation and one’s own destiny lead naturally to a search for a world that is nurtured by a search for the common good, universal peace and human development.
Interfaith Dialogue – Sharing the Gifts of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit is a creative spirit, with the Father and the Son, the Spirit creates, sanctifies and inspires human beings to ask questions about themselves, their origins and destiny, their relationship to God and their destiny with God. The Spirit is not restricted to the Catholic Church, nor are his gifts missing from human life and destiny. God wants the salvation of all human beings.
Nostra Aetate points to the Bible for the answers to the fundamental questions that all humans ask themselves. God’s plan for humanity and salvation history is told in the story of human kind, especially in the history of God’s people, Israel. But salvation is for the entire race. No one is excluded from God’s love or his commands of love of God and neighbor. God’s love for us and our love of neighbor are God’s will for us.
Interfaith relations are important because people are important. We are social animals. We are interdependent – we need one another. We have much to learn from each other. Before we can teach others, we must ask what they can teach us.
The Process of Interfaith Relations
Sharing spiritual gifts is part of the process of interfaith relations. The Bible and the religious traditions of other religions underscore the common relations that people of faith and good conscience have in common.
Nostra Aetate stresses the Abrahamic religions and what they share in common. The Jewish people were particularly in the mind of the participants of discussions of the Second Vatican Council. Muslim believers are also singled out because of their tradition and its appreciation for Jesus as a prophet and his mother, Mary, as a virgin who gave him birth and care. Other religious with a deep cultural relationship to peoples throughout history and geography are to be respected in Catholic interfaith relations and in collaboration for a common good. Buddhist and Hindu are examples of religions that have a long history and impact on the culture of many nations
Areas of Common Effort.
The ultimate goal of ecumenical dialogue is fulfilling the will of God to save all human beings. Respect and appreciation of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue partners should include the friendship of those involved in interfaith relations. Getting to know one another, our culture, religious traditions and practices are helpful preparations for collaboration in common efforts for religious freedom and interfaith collaboration. Pastoral, ethical/moral issues, social issues are fertile areas for discussion, collaboration and united efforts.
This article introduces some of the themes of Nostra Aetate and the importance of interfaith relations. It points out some of the areas where dialogue can reach out to shared exchange of gifts such as collaboration in peace and justice, social goals that are needed for a sharing in the common work and talents of every nation, race and religion. Salvation and redemption are religious concepts, yet they require human efforts and the collaboration of social groups and organizations. Nations, churches, religions and other institutions are necessary for success in building God’s kingdom and promoting his glory.