DECLARATION ON THE RELATION OF THE CHURCH TO NON-CHRISTIAN
RELIGIONS - NOSTRA AETATE
SERVANT OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD
TOGETHER WITH THE FATHERS OF THE SACRED COUNCIL
FOR EVERLASTING MEMORY
In our time, when day by day mankind is being drawn closer together,
and the ties between different peoples are becoming stronger, the Church
examines more closely her relationship to non-Christian religions. In
her tasks of promoting unity and love among men, indeed among nations,
she considers above all in this declaration what men have in common and
what draws them to fellowship.
One is the community of all peoples, one their origin, for God made
the whole human race to live over the face of the earth (1). One also
is their final goal, God. His providence, His manifestations of
goodness, His saving design extend to all men (2), until that time when
the elect will be united in the Holy City, the city ablaze with the
glory of God, where the nations will walk in His light (3).
Men expect from the various religions answers to the unsolved riddles
of the human condition, which today, even as in former times, deeply
stir the hearts of men: What is man? What is the meaning, the aim of
our life? What is moral good, what sin? Whence suffering and what
purpose does it serve? Which is the road to true happiness? What are
death, judgement and retribution after death? What, finally is the
ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence
do we come, and where are we going?
2. From ancient times down to the present, there is found among
various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers
over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times
some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of
a Father. This perception and recognition penetrates their lives with a
profound religious sense.
Religions, however, that are bound up with an advanced culture have
struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts
and a more developed language. Thus in Hinduism, men contemplate the
divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of
myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom
from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical
practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust.
Again, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical
insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men,
in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the
state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through
higher help, supreme illumination. Likewise, other religions found
everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in
its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of
life, and sacred rites.
The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these
religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and
of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many
aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often
reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she
proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ, "the way the truth, and the
life" (John 14, 6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life,
in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself (4).
The Church therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and
collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with
prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they
recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as
well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.
3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the
one God, living and subsisting in Himself, merciful and all-powerful,
the Creator of heaven and earth (5), who has spoken to men; they take
pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as
Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes great pleasure in linking
itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God,
they revere Him as a prophet. They also honour Mary, His virgin mother;
at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await
the day of judgement when God will render their deserts to all those who
have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life
and worship God especially through prayer, alms-giving and fasting.
Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities
have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this Sacred Synod urges all
to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to
preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind
social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.
4. As the Sacred Synod searches into the mystery of the Church, it
remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant
to Abraham's stock.
Thus the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God's saving
design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already
among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes that all
who believe in Christ -- Abraham's sons according to faith (6) -- are
included in the same Patriarch's call, and likewise that the salvation
of the Church is mysteriously foreshadowed by the chosen people's exodus
from the land of bondage. The Church, therefore, cannot forget that she
received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with
whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. Nor
can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-
cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the
Gentiles (7). Indeed, the Church believes that by His cross Christ Our
Peace reconciled Jews and Gentiles, making both one in Himself (8).
The Church keeps ever in mind the words of the Apostle about his
kinsmen: "There is the sonship and the glory and the covenants and the
law and the worship and the promises; theirs are the fathers and from
them is the Christ according to the flesh" (Rom. 8, 4-5), the Son of the
Virgin Mary. She also recalls that the Apostles, the Church's main-stay
and pillars, as well as most of the early disciples who proclaimed
Christ's Gospel to the world, sprang from the Jewish people.
As Holy Scripture testifies, Jerusalem did not recognize the time of
her visitation (9), nor did the Jews, in large number, accept the
Gospel; indeed not a few opposed its spreading (10). Nevertheless God
holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not
repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues -- such is the
witness of the Apostle (11). In company with the Prophets and the same
Apostle, the Church awaits that day, known to God alone, on which all
peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and "serve him shoulder
to shoulder" (Soph. 3, 9) (12).
Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so
great, this Sacred Synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual
understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and
theological studies as well as fraternal dialogues.
True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed
for the death of Christ (13); still, what happened in His passion cannot
be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor
against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new People of
God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as
if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then,
that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the Word of God they do
not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and
the spirit of Christ.
Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man,
the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved
not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries
hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews
at any time and by anyone.
Besides, as the Church has always held and holds now, Christ underwent
His passion and death freely, because of the sins of men and out of
infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation. It is, therefore,
the burden of the Church's preaching to proclaim the cross of Christ as
the sign of God's all-embracing love and as the fountain from which
every grace flows.
5. We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to
treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God.
Man's relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers
are so linked together that Scripture says: "He who does not love does
not know God" (1 John 4, 8).
No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads
to discrimination between man and the man or people and people, so far
as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned.
The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any
discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race,
colour, condition of life, or religion. On the contrary, following in
the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, this Sacred Synod
ardently implores the Christian faithful to "maintain good fellowship
among the nations" (1 Peter 2, 12), and, if possible to live for their
part in peace with all men (14), so that they many truly be sons of the
Father who is in heaven (15).
The entire text and all the individual elements which have been set
forth in this Declaration have pleased the Fathers. And by the
Apostolic power conferred on us by Christ, we, together with the
Venerable Fathers, in the Holy Spirit, approve, decree and enact them;
and we order that what has been thus enacted in Council be promulgated,
to the glory of God.
Rome, at St. Peter's, 28 October, 1965.
I, PAUL, Bishop of the Catholic Church
There follow the signatures of the Fathers.
(1) Cf. Acts 17, 26
(2) Cf. Wis. 8, 1; Acts 14, 17; Rom. 2, 6-7; 1 Tim 2, 4.
(3) Cf. Apoc. 21, 23f.
(4) Cf 2 Cor. 5, 18-19.
(5) Cf St. Gregory VII, Letter XXI to Anzir (Nacir), King of
Mauritania (PL 148, col 450 f.)
(6) Cf. Gal. 3, 7.
(7) Cf. Rom. 11, 17-24.
(8) Cf. Eph. 2, 14-16.
(9) Cf. Luke 19, 44.
(10) Cf. Rom. 11, 28.
(11) Cf. Rom 11, 28-29; cf Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium (Light
of Nations), AAS, 55 (1965), p. 20.
(12) Cf Is. 66, 23; Ps 65, 4: Rom. 11, 11-32.
(13) Cf. John 19, 6.
(14) Cf. Rom. 12, 18.
(15) Cf. Matt. 5, 45.