"Nostra Aetate" Initiated New Era, Says Foundation

Marks 41st Anniversary of Interreligious Document

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ROME, OCT. 27, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Second Vatican Council declaration "Nostra Aetate" facilitated a new era of peaceful interfaith relations, says the founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.

In a statement released on the eve of the 41st anniversary of the document, signed by Pope Paul VI on Oct. 28, 1965, Baruj Tenembaum said that it was a "point of change in the history of Judeo-Catholic relations."

It "was not a chance result or political opportunism," he added. The document of Vatican II, initiated by Pope John XXIII, "was the testimony that confirmed a new attitude toward the Jewish people."

The statement issued by Tenembaum highlighted the contribution of John XXIII to laying the groundwork for the new era of interfaith relations that began with Vatican II.

The note said that the actions of Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, the man who became John XXIII, were marked by respect toward and dialogue with non-Catholic religions.

"As apostolic delegate in Turkey and Greece after 1935, he engaged peaceably with the worlds of Orthodoxy and Islam," said Tenembaum, who is also the founder of the Angelo Roncalli International Committee. "When World War II erupted, he risked his position and security to provide thousands of Turkish transit visas, 'temporary' baptismal and immigration certificates, authorizing Hungarian Jews persecuted by the Nazis to escape to Palestine.

"He also aided Jews of France, Slovakia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Italy. Catholic sources note that he issued 80,000 protective certificates."

"Testimonies at the Nuremberg trials credit him with helping to save tens of thousands of lives," added Tenembaum.

Archbishop Roncalli not only took direct action to rescue so many people, he also denounced before the Vatican and the Allied nations the genocide carried out by the Nazis, said the Jewish theologian.

"Humanity," said Tenembaum, "still has much to learn from his wonderful apostolate."