28 October,1965: Jews absolved of collective guilt for Jesus’ crucifixion.

Pope Francis at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

28 October,1965: “Nostra aetate” (the “Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions” of the Second Vatican Council)  is promulgated by Pope Paul VI: it absolves the Jews of responsibility for the death of Jesus, reversing Innocent III’s 760-year-old declaration.

On October 28, 1965. Pope Paul VI promulgated Nostra Aetate, which  proclaimed the Jewish people not collectively guilty for crucifixion.

The first draft, entitled “Decretum de Iudaeis” (“Decree on the Jews”), completed in 1961, was never submitted to the Council, which opened on 11 October 1962.

The Declaration begins by describing the unity of the origin of all people, and the fact that they all return to God. It notes the willingness of the Catholic Church to accept some truths present in other religions, when  they reflect Catholic teaching and may lead souls to Christ. Then it deals with the Muslims  and some of the things Islam  has in common with Christianity and Catholicism: worship of One God, their  respect for Abraham, Mary and Jesus, regarded as a  Prophet.

Next, it illustrates the bond that ties the people of the ‘New Covenant’ (Christians) to Abraham’s stock (Jews) and states that even though some Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death,  what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today, thus repudiating an indiscriminate accusation of Jewish deicide.

The last part states that all men are created in God’s image, so it is contrary to the teaching of the Church to show hatred towards any person or people on the basis of colour, race, religion, condition of life and so on.

Nostra Aetate marked a new beginning in the interfaith dialogue between Israel and the Church, based on mutual respect. The widespread perception by Catholics of the Jews as condemned by God to suffer exile and degradation was replaced by the words of Pope John Paul II: “You are our dearly beloved brothers…our elder brothers,”  and of Pope Francis: “A Christian cannot be anti-Semitic because of our common roots.”

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