Nostra Aetate;DECLARATION ON THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE CHURCH TO NON-CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS

Second Vatican Council
October 28, 1965
Revised English Translation*
1. In our day, when people are drawing more closely together and the bonds of friendship
between different peoples are being strengthened, the church examines more carefully its
relations with non-Christian religions. Ever aware of its duty to foster unity and charity among
individuals, and even among nations, it reflects at the outset on what people have common
and what tends to bring them together.
Humanity forms but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which
God created to people the entire earth (see Acts 17:26), and also because all share a
common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend
to all humankind (see Wis 8:1; Acts 14:17; Rom 2:6-7; 1 Tim 2:4) against the day when the
elect are gathered together in the holy city which is illumined by the glory of God, and in
whose splendor all peoples will walk (see Apoc 21:23 ff.).
People look to their different religions for an answer to the unsolved riddles of human
existence. The problems that weigh heavily on people’s hearts are the same today as in past
ages. What is humanity? What is the meaning and purpose of life? What is upright behavior,
and what is sinful? Where does suffering originate, and what end does it serve? How can
genuine happiness be found? What happens at death? What is judgment? What reward
follows death? And finally, what is the ultimate mystery, beyond human explanation, which
embraces our entire existence, from which we take our origin and towards which we tend?
2. Throughout history, to the present day, there is found among different peoples a certain
awareness of a hidden power, which lies behind the course of nature and the events of
human life. At times, there is present even a recognition of a supreme being, or still more of a
Father. This awareness and recognition results in a way of life that is imbued with a deep
religious sense. The religions which are found in more advanced civilizations endeavor by
way of well-defined concepts and exact language to answer these questions. Thus, in
Hinduism people explore the divine mystery and express it both in the limitless riches of myth
and the accurately defined insights of philosophy. They seek release from the trials of the
present life by ascetical practices, profound meditation and recourse to God in confidence
and love. Buddhism in its various forms testifies to the essential inadequacy of this changing
world. It proposes a way of life by which people can, with confidence and trust, attain a state
of perfect liberation and reach supreme illumination either through their own efforts or with
divine help. So, too, other religions which are found throughout the world attempt in different
ways to overcome the restlessness of people’s hearts by outlining a program of life covering
doctrine, moral precepts and sacred rites.
The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. It has a high
regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although
differing in many ways from its own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth
which enlightens all men and women. Yet it proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim
without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 1:6). In him, in whom God
reconciled all things to himself (see 2 Cor 5:18-19), people find the fullness of their religious
life.
The Church, therefore, urges its sons and daughters to enter with prudence and charity into
discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. Let Christians, while witnessing
to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and
moral truths found among non-Christians, together with their social life and culture.
3. The church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living
and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth,1 who has also
spoken to humanity. They endeavor to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden
decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims
eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they venerate Jesus as a
prophet; his virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they
await the day of judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For
this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer,
alms-deeds and fasting.
Over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and
Muslims. The sacred council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere
effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all, let them together
preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.
4. Sounding the depths of the mystery which is the church, this sacred council remembers the
spiritual ties which link the people of the new covenant to the stock of Abraham.
The church of Christ acknowledges that in God’s plan of salvation the beginnings of its faith
and election are to be found in the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. It professes that all
Christ’s faithful, who as people of faith are daughters and sons of Abraham (see Gal 3:7), are
included in the same patriarch’s call and that the salvation of the church is mystically
prefigured in the exodus of God’s chosen people from the land of bondage. On this account
the church cannot forget that it received the revelation of the Old Testament by way of that
people with whom God in his inexpressible mercy established the ancient covenant. Nor can
it forget that it draws nourishment from that good olive tree onto which the wild olive branches
of the Gentiles have been grafted (see Rom 11:17-24). The church believes that Christ who
is our peace has through his cross reconciled Jews and Gentiles and made them one in
himself (see Eph 2:14,16).
Likewise, the church keeps ever before its mind the words of the apostle Paul about his kin:
“they are Israelites and it is for them to be sons and daughters, to them belong the glory, the
covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the
patriarchs, and of their race according to the flesh, is the Christ” (Rom 9:4,5), the Son of the
Virgin Mary. It is mindful, moreover, that the apostles, the pillars on which the church stands,
are of Jewish descent, as are many of those early disciples who proclaimed the Gospel of
Christ to the world.
As holy scripture testifies, Jerusalem did not recognize God’s moment when it came (see Lk
19:42). Jews for the most part did not accept the Gospel; on the contrary, many opposed its
spread (see Rom 11:28). Even so, the apostle Paul maintains that the Jews remain very dear
to God, for the sake of the patriarchs, since God does not take back the gifts he bestowed or
the choice he made.2 Together with the prophets and that same apostle, the church awaits
the day, known to God alone, when all peoples will call on God with one voice and serve him
shoulder to shoulder (Soph 3:9; see Is 66:23; Ps 65:4; Rom 11:11-32).
Since Christians and Jews have such a common spiritual heritage, this sacred council wishes
to encourage and further mutual understanding and appreciation. This can be achieved,
especially, by way of biblical and theological enquiry and through friendly discussions.
Even though the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death
of Christ (see Jn 19:6), neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be
charged with the crimes committed during his passion. It is true that the church is the new
people of God, yet the Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this
followed from holy scripture. Consequently, all must take care, lest in catechizing or in
preaching the word of God, they teach anything which is not in accord with the truth of the
Gospel message or the spirit of Christ.
Indeed, the church reproves every form of persecution against whomsoever it may be
directed. Remembering, then, it?s common heritage with the Jews and moved not by any
political consideration, but solely by the religious motivation of Christian charity, it deplores all
hatreds, persecutions, displays of anti-semitism directed against the Jews at any time or from
any source. The church always held and continues to hold that Christ out of infinite love
freely underwent suffering and death because of the sins of all, so that all might attain
salvation. It is the duty of the church, therefore, in it?s preaching to proclaim the cross of
Christ as the sign of God’s universal love and the source of all grace.
5. We cannot truly pray to God the Father of all if we treat any people as other than sisters
and brothers, for all are created in God’s image. People’s relation to God the Father and their
relation to other women and men are so dependent on each other that the Scripture says
“they who do not love, do not know God” (1 Jn 4:8). There is no basis therefore, either in
theory or in practice for any discrimination between individual and individual, or between
people and people arising either from human dignity or from the rights which flow from it.
Therefore, the church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against
people or any harassment of them on the basis of their race, color, condition in life or religion.
Accordingly, following the footsteps of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, the sacred council
earnestly begs the Christian faithful to “conduct themselves well among the Gentiles” (1 Pet
2:12} and if possible, as far as depends on them, to be at peace with all people (see Rom
12:18) and in that way to be true daughters and sons of the Father who is in heaven (see Mt
5:45).
Notes
I. See St Gregory VII, Letter 21 to Anzir (Nacir), King of a. Mauretania: PL 148, col. 450 ff.
II. See Rom 11:28-29; see Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.
* As found in Austin Flannery, O.P., ed., Vatican Council II: Constitutions Decrees,
Declarations. A Completely Revised Translation in Inclusive Language (Northport, NY:
Costello Publishing, 1996).

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