Thought of the Week: 8 October 2015 (Rabbi Maurice Michaels)

Written by Writings & Sermons by others — 8 October 2015

Between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, I went to Church for Mass!  Our neighbours, St Edward the Confessor RC Church, just along Finchley Road, were celebrating the centenary of the building of the Church and I was invited as a guest to represent Alyth. We were privileged to be mentioned by name in the welcome and the event was quite spectacular, including several pieces from their magnificent choir. Following the Service there was a splendid reception and Fr Tony Convery, the Parish Priest, introduced me to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Head of the Catholic Church in the UK. We spoke for quite a time and he was very interested to hear of the continuing dialogue between the members of our two Places of Worship, especially that we had gone way beyond the platitudes stage and were debating important and occasionally controversial topics. He apologised that he would not be able to join us for the celebration at Alyth to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Nostra Aetate declaration promulgated by Pope Paul VI, as he will be in Rome for a Conference of Bishops. However, he said we were in the very good hands of Archbishop Kevin McDonald, who will give the keynote address.

In fact the Emeritus Archbishop of Southwark has been to Alyth with his good friend Fr Tony for a Friday evening Service a couple of years ago and impressed everyone with his good Hebrew!  But he really is the appropriate person because not only is he Chairman of the Catholic-Jewish Committee of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, he is also Consultor to the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.  And, of course, the declaration we are celebrating was a major turning point in the relationship between Catholics and Jews.  To quote the US Anti-Defamation League, “In 1965, the Second Vatican Council made historic changes to church policies and theology.  Among them was Nostra Aetate, Latin for “In Our Time,” a document that revolutionized the Catholic Church’s approach to Jews and Judaism after nearly 2000 years of pain and sorrow. Section four of Nostra Aetate repudiates the centuries-old “deicide” charge against all Jews, stresses the religious bond shared by Jews and Catholics, reaffirms the eternal covenant between God and the People of Israel, and dismisses church interest in trying to baptize Jews.  For the first time in history Nostra Aetate called for Catholics and Jews to engage in friendly dialogue and biblical and theological discussions to better understand each other’s faith.  After intense debate and some strong opposition, Nostra Aetate was approved by the world’s Bishops and Cardinals in Rome on October 28, 1965.  Nostra Aetate also calls for the church to dialogue with other world religions.”

The friendly relationship and dialogue that we have with the members of St Edward the Confessor Church is a direct result of the Nostra Aetate declaration and so our celebration of the anniversary here at Alyth is both an historic and contemporary event.  I know that the Church will be out in force, along with their choir and I hope that Alyth members too will support our choir and Interfaith Dialogue Group, who will be hosting the national and local dignitaries, who will be attending the Service and reception on Sunday 25th October at 3.00pm.