SERVANT OF THE SERVANTS OF
GOD TOGETHER WITH THE
FATHERS OF THE SACRED
FOR EVERLASTING MEMORY
ON THE RELATION OF THE
CHURCH TO NON-CHRISTIAN
In our time, when day by day mankind is being drawn closer together,
and the ties between different peoples are becoming stronger, the
Church examines more closely her relationship to non-Christian
religions. In her tasks of promoting unity and love among men, indeed
among nations, she considers above all in this declaration what men
have in common and what draws them to fellowship.
One is the community of all peoples, one their origin, for God made
the whole human race to live over the face of the earth (1). One also
is their final goal, God. His providence, His manifestations of
goodness, His saving design extend to all men (2), until that time
when the elect will be united in the Holy City, the city ablaze with
the glory of God, where the nations will walk in His light (3).
Men expect from the various religions answers to the unsolved
riddles of the human condition, which today, even as in former times,
deeply stir the hearts of men: What is man? What is the meaning, the
aim of our life? What is moral good, what sin? Whence suffering and
what purpose does it serve? Which is the road to true happiness?
What are death, judgement and retribution after death? What, finally
is the ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence:
whence do we come, and where are we going?
2. From ancient times down to the present, there is found among
various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers
over the course of things and over the events of human history; at
times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or
even of a Father. This perception and recognition penetrates their
lives with a profound religious sense.
Religions, however, that are bound up with an advanced culture have
struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined
concepts and a more developed language. Thus in Hinduism, men
contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible
abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They
seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through
ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with
love and trust. Again, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the
radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by
which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to
acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own
efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination. Likewise, other
religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the
human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising
teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites.
The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these
religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct
and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in
many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often
reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she
proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ, "the way the truth, and the
life" (John 14, 6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious
life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself (4).
The Church therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and
collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with
prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life,
they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and
moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.
3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the
one God, living and subsisting in Himself, merciful and all-powerful,
the Creator of heaven and earth (5), who has spoken to men; they take
pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as
Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes great pleasure in linking
itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as
God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin
mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition,
they await the day of judgement when God will render their deserts to
all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value
the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving
Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities
have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this Sacred Synod urges
all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding
and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all
mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and
4. As the Sacred Synod searches into the mystery of the Church, it
remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New
Covenant to Abraham's stock.
Thus the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God's
saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found
already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes
that all who believe in Christ -- Abraham's sons according to faith
(6) -- are included in the same Patriarch's call, and likewise that
the salvation of the Church is mysteriously foreshadowed by the chosen
people's exodus from the land of bondage. The Church, therefore,
cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament
through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded
the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance
from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been
grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles (7). Indeed, the Church
believes that by His cross Christ Our Peace reconciled Jews and
Gentiles, making both one in Himself (8).
The Church keeps ever in mind the words of the Apostle about his
kinsmen: "There is the sonship and the glory and the covenants and
the law and the worship and the promises; theirs are the fathers and
from them is the Christ according to the flesh" (Rom. 8, 4-5), the Son
of the Virgin Mary. She also recalls that the Apostles, the Church's
main-stay and pillars, as well as most of the early disciples who
proclaimed Christ's Gospel to the world, sprang from the Jewish
As Holy Scripture testifies, Jerusalem did not recognize the time of
her visitation (9), nor did the Jews, in large number, accept the
Gospel; indeed not a few opposed its spreading (10). Nevertheless God
holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not
repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues -- such is the
witness of the Apostle (11). In company with the Prophets and the
same Apostle, the Church awaits that day, known to God alone, on which
all peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and "serve him
shoulder to shoulder" (Soph. 3, 9) (12).
Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus
so great, this Sacred Synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual
understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical
and theological studies as well as fraternal dialogues.
True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead
pressed for the death of Christ (13); still, what happened in His
passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction,
then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the
new People of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or
accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All
should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching
of the Word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to
the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.
Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man,
the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and
moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love,
decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed
against Jews at any time and by anyone.
Besides, as the Church has always held and holds now, Christ
underwent His passion and death freely, because of the sins of men and
out of infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation. It is,
therefore, the burden of the Church's preaching to proclaim the cross
of Christ as the sign of God's all-embracing love and as the fountain
from which every grace flows.
5. We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to
treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of
God. Man's relation to God the Father and his relation to men his
brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: "He who does not
love does not know God" (1 John 4, 8).
No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that
leads to discrimination between man and the man or people and people,
so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are
The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any
discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their
race, color, condition of life, or religion. On the contrary,
following in the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, this
Sacred Synod ardently implores the Christian faithful to "maintain good
fellowship among the nations" (1 Peter 2, 12), and, if possible to
live for their part in peace with all men (14), so that they many
truly be sons of the Father who is in heaven (15).
The entire text and all the individual elements which have been set
forth in this Declaration have pleased the Fathers. And by the
Apostolic power conferred on us by Christ, we, together with the
Venerable Fathers, in the Holy Spirit, approve, decree and enact them;
and we order that what has been thus enacted in Council be
promulgated, to the glory of God.
Rome, at St. Peter's, 28 October, 1965.
I, PAUL, Bishop of the Catholic Church
There follow the signatures of the Fathers.
(1) Cf. Acts 17, 26
(2) Cf. Wis. 8, 1; Acts 14, 17; Rom. 2, 6-7; 1 Tim 2, 4.
(3) Cf. Apoc. 21, 23f.
(4) Cf 2 Cor. 5, 18-19.
(5) Cf St. Gregory VII, Letter XXI to Anzir (Nacir), King of
Mauritania (PL 148, col 450 f.)
(6) Cf. Gal. 3, 7.
(7) Cf. Rom. 11, 17-24.
(8) Cf. Eph. 2, 14-16.
(9) Cf. Luke 19, 44.
(10) Cf. Rom. 11, 28.
(11) Cf. Rom 11, 28-29; cf Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium (Light
of Nations), AAS, 55 (1965), p. 20.
(12) Cf Is. 66, 23; Ps 65, 4: Rom. 11, 11-32.
(13) Cf. John 19, 6.
(14) Cf. Rom. 12, 18.
(15) Cf. Matt. 5, 45.