At the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, after three years of intense deliberation and debate, the world’s Roman Catholic bishops voted overwhelmingly that day to adopt the historic declaration titled “Nostra Aetate (In Our Time).”
The proclamation, promulgated by Pope Paul VI, set in motion a revolution of the human spirit and sparked a serious and systematic effort by the Catholic Church as well as other Christian bodies around the world to transform their past bitter relationships with Jews and Judaism.
The English translation of the original Latin text, only 624 words in length, rejected the ancient lethal and odious charge that the Jews were “Christ killers.” (It was the Roman occupiers of the land of Judea who executed Jesus.)
The specific term “anti-Semitism” (hatred of Jews and Judaism) appears in “Nostra Aetate”: The church, it reads, “ … decries hatred, persecution, (and) displays of anti-Semitism directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”
The declaration also specifically called for “mutual understanding and respect” and the establishment of “biblical and theological studies” as well as “fraternal dialogues” between Catholics and Jews.
Pope Paul VI in 1963. Vatican City official photo/Creative Commons