“World Religions in Los Angeles.” “Islam and the Building of America.” “Judaism: Religion, History, Culture.”
Today, students take for granted that they can take courses like these at Loyola Marymount University, a Catholic institution. Most don’t know that a brief document written by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1965 is what made possible this diversity of theological thought on Catholic campuses. It is called Nostra Aetate, and the Church is celebrating its 50th anniversary this fall.
Nostra Aetate was a groundbreaking teaching that changed the way Catholics understood other religions. Officially titled “The Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council,” the document called for mutual understanding between Catholicism and Judaism, emphasizing the common heritage of the two traditions. Nostra Aetate also articulated a then radical teaching that all world religions have elements of truth and are worthy of Catholics’ respect. The teaching ushered in an era of ecumenism and interfaith understanding for the Catholic Church.
“Prior to Nostra Aetate, the Church had emphasized the differences between religions,” said Tracy Tiemeier, professor of theological studies at LMU. “Nostra Aetate instead begins with what we have in common.”
Teiemeier is co-editor, with James Fredericks, S.J., of “Interreligious Friendship After Nostra Aetate,” released this year. Fredericks is also a professor of theological studies at LMU. On an interfaith trip to the Vatican this year, Fredericks shared their book with Pope Francis.
“With the fiftieth anniversary of Nostra Aetate, LMU can celebrate its longstanding commitment to religious diversity and interreligious dialogue,” said Tiemeier.
On November 9, Loyola Marymount University will honor the 50-year legacy of Nostra Aetate with a The 2015 Kristallnacht Commemoration and Jewish-Catholic Interfaith Forum. The two-part program will begin with the Kristallnacht Commemoration, an interfaith concert remembering and mourning the infamous Night of Broken Glass in 1938 Germany. Following will be a dialogue, “The Vatican II Revolution: The Ongoing Struggle for Jewish-Catholic Relations,” featuring Jewish and Catholic scholars, Dr. Amy-Jill Levine and Dr. Mary C. Boys, SNJM. The Kristallnacht Commemoration is sponsored by the 1939 Society, and the lecture is presented by The Catholic-Jewish Women’s Conference and the BCLA Interfaith Forum.
“We want to connect city, church, synagogue and university,” said Holli Levitsky, director of LMU’s Jewish Studies program, which convenes the annual Kristallnacht Commemoration.
“As a student at LMU, I love the opportunities for interreligious engagement,” Kacey Irvan ’16 said in the Theological Studies Undergraduate Newsletter. “Learning about different beliefs and practices not only gives me a better understanding of the world around me; these differences often enhance my own religious experience.”