Fifty years ago this week marks a dramatic turning point in relations between Catholics and Jews.
On Oct. 2 8, 1965, Pope Paul VI issued a ground breaking Vatican II declaration, Nostra Aetate (In our Time) which ordered Catholics “to enter with prudence and charity into discussions and collaboration” with people of other religions, especially Jews . It represents an historic condemnation of anti-Semitism and paved the way for ecumenical dialogue. In particular, it rid the church liturgy of its offensive language which for centuries had dismissed Jews as “perfidious."
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the papal declaration an Oratorio for world Peace by Montreal composer Judith Cohen Lechter will have its world premiere at the Vatican in December. Cohen-Lechter is the founder of World Peace Through Music, an international organization that brings musicians from around the world together to give concerts which promote peace... Once described as an “apostle of peace,” she has been recognized by the Sorbonne Academy as “the finest performer of Jewish art music. ”
She first became aware of the encyclical ten years ago, when a priest brought it to her attention. Nostra Aetate, she said, “made her tremble,” with its message of inclusiveness and love for all mankind Apart from theologians and a few academics, she says very few people know about the document.
“I was in awe when I read it,” she said in an interview from Rome where she is in rehearsal. “Having always considered myself, in addition to being a citizen of the world, an ardent Jewess, I was deeply moved by the precious words of inclusiveness and its all-embracing message.”
She became the driving force of what seemed to be an insanely ambitious project. The Vatican approved the work in March. Originally the oratorio was to have been presented on October 28th, but the logistics of putting it all together made it difficult to meet the deadline.
Easy to implement it is not,” she says, “It was extremely difficult finding and putting all the elements together with the orchestra. a 150 voice children’s choir, a cantor and a narrator all 5000 miles away. Composing the work has been a great joy, and I am excited to have my dream of having the work performed at the very place of its birth, at the Vatican, come true. I never lost hope and I never hesitated in my efforts. I always remembered the words of Theorore Hertzl; “If you wish it, it shall not be a dream.. But of course, wishing is not enough, and the challenges were enormous. It was extremely difficult”
Performances of the two hour Oratorio are being planned in the spring at New York’s Carnegie Hall and Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. It scheduled to be heard in Montreal at the Maison Symphonique on April 17, 2016.
On Tuesday, Oct. 27, a seminar, Nostra Aetate, A turning Point in Jewish-Christian Relations was held at the Jewish Public Library. Biblical scholar Jean Duhaime, and vice president of the Judeo-Christian dialogue of Montreal, and French Philosopher Armand Abecassis from Bordeaux took part.
The full document may be found at http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html