CHERRY HILL — On the evening of Dec. 1, Bishop Dennis Sullivan gathered with Catholic and Jewish leaders at Temple Emanuel here for a Catholic-Jewish Commission Community Symposium on “Fifty Years since Nostra Aetate: A Journey of Friendship.”
The occasion commemorated the 50th anniversary of the landmark Second Vatican Council Document, Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate). Promulgated by Pope Paul VI on Oct. 28, 1965, it states that the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in non-Christian religions, and called for an end to anti-Semitism and discrimination.
The evening was sponsored by the Diocese of Camden, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Southern New Jersey, and the Catholic-Jewish Commission.
Addressing a packed audience, Bishop Sullivan expressed his pleasure “to continue to celebrate the close ties of friendship and respect that Catholics and Jews share here in South Jersey” due to Nostra Aetate, which “inaugurated a new era of positive relationship and engagement.”
“The blossoming of the sweet fruit of Nostra Aetate continues to bring hope and concord to all God’s children, especially Jewish and Catholic. May we continue the good work begun in interfaith rapprochement by Nostra Aetate and bring it to fruition in the Kingdom of God!” he said.
The bishop’s remarks came before a detailed discussion of the historical relations between the Catholic and Jewish community and Nostra Aetate’s impact, led by two scholars: Dr. Philip A. Cunningham, professor of theology and director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations of Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and Dr. Ruth N. Sandberg, Leonard and Ethel Landau Professor of Rabbinics at Gratz College in Elkins Park, Pa.
The night ended with a reception in the social hall, where guests could see a small photo gallery of Pope Francis’ recent trip to the Holy Land last May.
Bishop Sullivan’s visit to Temple Emanuel is his second one in two months. On Oct. 16, he delivered an address during a Shabbat Service and detailed Holocaust education in the diocese’s Catholic schools.
Rabbi Jerome David, senior rabbi of Temple Emanuel, said, “It’s very important to have the right leader who carries on this mission (of building bridges between Catholics and Jews), and Bishop Sullivan is that leader.”
Remarking on the upcoming celebration of Hanukkah — the eight-day Jewish Feast of Lights — Rabbi David called Bishop Sullivan “a light, and an inspiration. He is giving light to all of us.”
David Snyder, executive director of JCRC, called the evening a “shining example of faith communities working together and partnering with one another.
“In these troubling times, for people to get to know one another and learn what binds us, rather than what separates us, is vitally important,” he said.