The Diocese of Rochester has been a leader for interfaith relations between Catholics and other faith communities. Under the leadership of Bishop Matthew H. Clark, the Diocese of Rochester made history for two separate, historic agreements with the Jewish and Muslim communities in the city.
On May 8, 1996, the diocese entered into a historic agreement with the Rochester Board of Rabbis and the Jewish Community Federation of Greater Rochester, pledging to work together to promote understanding of the Catholic and Jewish faiths and combat religious intolerance and prejudice.
Seven years later the diocese made history again, this time for making a similar pledge with Rochester’s Muslim community. The Catholic-Muslim Agreement of Understanding and Cooperation was signed by Bishop Matthew H. Clark and other Catholic and Muslim leaders on May 5, 2003. This agreement also rejects religious intolerance and promotes deeper knowledge and understanding of both Catholicism and Islam.
The groundwork for the two agreements was laid by Nostra Aetate, or “Declaration on the Relation of the Roman Catholic Church to Non-Christian Religions” which came out of the Second Vatican Council and was proclaimed by Pope Paul VI in October 1965. Nostra Aetate completely changed the way Catholics viewed Jews, Muslims and members of other non-Christian religions. This document decried anti-Semitism in particular and religious intolerance in general, and opened the door for interfaith dialogue.