Philadelphia Jews and Catholics to Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate at SJU

Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Pope Francis' longtime friend, to speak at event.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (June 17, 2015) – Saint Joseph’s University with the Philadelphia Jewish community will dedicate “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time,” an original bronze sculpture portraying feminine allegorical figures signifying both religions on Friday, September 25. The statue was commissioned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration Nostra Aetate. Latin for “In Our Time,” Nostra Aetate is the 1965 document that changed the relationship between the Jewish and Catholic faiths. Rabbi Abraham Skorka, the rector of the Seminario Rabinico Latinoamerica in Buenos Aires, and co-author with Pope Francis of the book of their interfaith dialogues, On Heaven and Earth (New York: Image, 2013), will speak at the dedication.

The event will be held at 3 p.m. at the Chapel of St. Joseph-Michael J. Smith, S.J. Memorial, located on Saint Joseph’s campus, and is free and open to the public. (The statue will be installed on the plaza in front of the Chapel). Registration is required. Co-sponsored by Saint Joseph’s, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the World Meeting of Families, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Greater Philadelphia Board of Rabbis, further details about the dedication will be released at a later date.

“It is profoundly fitting that Philadelphia Jews and Catholics should come together to mark the golden jubilee of this groundbreaking Vatican declaration,” says Philip A. Cunningham, Ph.D., professor of theology and director of Saint Joseph’s Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations.  “As our original sculpture will portray, today we are able to converse and study together as never before.”

“The Philadelphia Jewish community finds it extremely meaningful to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its transformed relationship with the Catholic Church by hearing from one of Pope Francis’s closest friends, Rabbi Abraham Skorka,” says Adam Kessler, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. “Their friendship is itself a sign of the historic change that is under way.”

Released by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965, Nostra Aetate called for friendship and dialogue between Catholics and Jews, instead of the repudiation of Judaism by Church leaders that had existed for centuries. Shortly after, what was then Saint Joseph’s College became the first American Catholic college to respond by establishing the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations. “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time,” which was created by Philadelphia artist Joshua Koffman, also memorializes the Institute’s work and mission.

On numerous medieval cathedrals, statues of the female allegorical figures of Church (Ecclesia) and Synagogue (Synagoga) depicted the triumph of Christianity over Judaism. Ecclesia is crowned, majestic and victorious. Synagoga is defeated and blindfolded, her crown fallen at her feet. In sharp contrast, SJU’s sculpture renders Jews and Christians using the medieval figures as equals, studying Torah and Scripture as friends, thus expressing Catholic teaching today.

“I look forward to celebrating the anniversary of the watershed statement Nostra Aetate at SJU because of the University's long commitment to Jewish-Catholic relations,” says Jewish studies assistant professor and Institute assistant director Adam Gregerman, Ph.D. “The Institute enables Catholic and Jewish scholars to teach and do research together, and for almost five decades has built close ties with the Philadelphia Jewish community.”

Media Contact

Patricia Allen, Director of Communications, 610-660-3240,

Event Contact

Philip A. Cunningham, Ph.D., Director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations, 610-660-1863,


Founded in 1851 in the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, Saint Joseph’s University is a top-ranked Catholic University that provides a rigorous, student-centered education. With a total enrollment of 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students, SJU offers a wide array of academic programs designed so that each graduate enters the world with a competitive resume and global perspective. This is achieved through intense academic study led by thought-leading faculty scholars, a comprehensive campus experience and robust study abroad, service-learning, internship and co-op programs. Upon graduation, nearly 100 percent of students are employed, pursuing advanced degrees or volunteering in prestigious service programs. A member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, SJU offers 20 Division I intercollegiate men’s and women’s sports. SJU alumni — over 68,000 strong — provide a powerful network that spans the globe.

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