In Our Time

Marking 59 years since the proclamation of Nostra Aetate (In Our Time), Mauricio Silva reflects on the transformative power and enduring lessons of interreligious dialogue, offering insight on building peace in a troubled world.

Mauricio Silva (left) organises the interfaith network as a Columban missionary in the UK. Photo: Mauricio Silva

Mauricio Silva (left) organises the interfaith network as a Columban missionary in the UK. Photo: Mauricio Silva

These days, we cannot help but feel profound sadness when looking at the events in the Middle East. Images of suffering, destruction and despair leave no doubt that, in our time, the gift of life and prosperity continues to be denied for so many. By contemplating the evil of war and violence, we are reminded that peace is a fragile and precious gift, which often seems unreachable through our human endeavours.

Importance of Interreligious Dialogue

In order not to get caught in despair, I prefer to think that we –  humanity – are on a journey towards peace. Like any other journey, this has many seemingly unsurmountable obstacles and is filled with instances in which we may succumb to the temptation of apathy and inaction. As has often been repeated, peace is not only the absence of conflict and war. Peace is a state of wholeness, in which all creatures live in harmony, nurturing each other and enabling each other’s fulfilment. That is the biblical Jewish vision of Shalom, which lies at the heart of Jesus’ teachings.

In the aftermath of the violent first half of the 20th century and the devastation of the Holocaust, the Church authorities felt prompted to open a path of reconciliation and peace with others. With a vision centred on the concept of common humanity, the Church embarked on a journey which began with the recognition of its past errors, continued renewal of its teachings, and a steadfast commitment to an ongoing dialogue with people of other faiths. The teachings contained in Nostra Aetate, promulgated 59 years ago by Pope Paul VI, heralded a paradigm shift in the way the Church perceived believers of different religions and, crucially, the way it saw itself. The declaration initiated a journey of increasing awareness of the holiness and goodness which can be found in others beyond the Church.

In just under 1,600 words, Nostra Aetate influenced the thinking and action not only of Catholics but also of many Christians from other denominations, and even people of other faiths. The journey started by this declaration in 1965 is far from complete.

Nevertheless, during the past six decades, Nostra Aetate has awakened a movement of openness within the churches which has helped deepen Christians’ understanding of humanity, Creation and its Creator. This emerging understanding is highlighted by the encounters and relationships with our sisters and brothers from Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, Sikh, Buddhist and other traditions.

I believe the teachings of Nostra Aetate – and other subsequent documents about dialogue promulgated by Catholic and other churches in recent decades – offer a path to building the Shalom that Jesus offers to his followers. The current Synod on Synodality places at its heart the value of honest and courageous dialogue which similarly prompted the emergence of this important document nearly six decades ago. It seems to me that the lessons learned by Christians who encounter people of other faiths – or of no faith – can help us better discern our contribution to world peace in these troubled times.

We invite you to read this profoundly significant document here.

Mauricio Silva is the Columban Interreligious Dialogue Coordinator in Britain.

Related links

Sign up to The Sydney Statement

Ten things everyone needs to know about Islam

Code : 64

In Stock | BOOKLET


This 36-page booklet (A5) provides an excellent introduction to Islam for schools, parishes, homes and offices. Written by John L. Esposito. 

See all products