The Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning is a collaborative enterprise of the University of St. Thomas and Saint John’s University (MN), and it also serves the College of Saint Benedict (MN), which shares a common curriculum with Saint John's. After many years of fostering Jewish-Christian relations, the center expanded its mission to promote interfaith learning, friendship, and service among people of various religions. It does this by sponsoring a host of interfaith activities, including artistic performances, lectures, panels, conferences, retreats, and service programs.
By promoting interfaith learning, friendship, and service, the Jay Phillips Center is carrying out a mandate of the Vatican Council II (1962-1965) and subsequent official Roman Catholic teaching, and it is thereby supporting the Catholic identity of its host universities.
Since Vatican II the importance of interfaith dialogue has been emphasized by many church leaders, especially Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis. The council document Nostra Aetate (from its opening Latin words meaning “In our time”), issued in 1965 and also known as “The Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions,” calls upon Catholics to engage in “dialogue and collaboration with followers of other religions.”
Nostra Aetate claims that the Church is “ever aware of its duty to foster unity and charity among individuals, and even among nations,” and it challenges Christians to “acknowledge, preserve, and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians” while at the same time “witnessing to their own faith and way of life.”
Remaining deeply committed to the enhancement of Jewish-Christian relations, the Jay Phillips Center is now equally committed to its expanded mission of carrying out the wider interfaith mandate of Vatican II as an essential feature of Catholic identity—and therefore of the identity of its host institutions—and as an indispensable means of strengthening the fabric of community.