“It was religiously and politically controversial and many Arab countries were against it,” Kelley said. The topic was discussed and debated with several drafts written over two years. The final draft was presented in 1964 and approved in 1965.
During that time, Kelley said Pope John XXIII began to change the language of the church which was derogatory to Jews and even led to persecutions.
“During World War II, Pope John XXIII was active in protecting Jews and wanted to strengthen the relationship and asked for a wider discussion in the church with Jewish people,” said Kelley, dean of experimental learning at Merrimack.
“The main issue in interfaith dialogue is that if you enter into a real sustained dialogue with someone of a different faith, you begin to understand your own in a new and deeper way,” he said.
During his papacy John Paul II made great strides in strengthening the relationship with Jews, Kelley said, because he grew up in Poland and was close to the Jewish community there.
Kelley said the dialogue between Christians and Muslims has not been the same since Sept. 11, 2001.
“It’s been complicated. Sept. 11 makes it more imperative to deepen our dialogue with the Islamic community so we can understand the struggles of the religion hijacked by extremists.”
On Oct. 15, the Center for Christian-Jewish-Muslim Relations will host a dinner where participants can talk with heroes of the interfaith world including Rabbi Burton Visotzky of the Jewish Theological Seminary; Jacob Bender, independent documentary filmmaker; Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley; Rev. Diane Kessler, Massachusetts Council of Churches, and Dr. Mohamed Lazzouni, Imam and interfaith leader in New England.