The Holy Father will most probably stay at the Apostolic Nunciature in Wimbledon, London SW19, whilst he is in GB during September. As this location is but a five minute walk from where I live I'm wondering perchance what the likelihood of a nice cuppa with his Holiness is?
I also note that there is a bus stop outside the Apostolic Nunciature. Should the bishops have a shortfall on funding for the visit, the 93 bus stops outside, from whence it is a short hop to the tube at Wimbledon and about 20 mins to Victoria station for Westminster Cathedral!
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Tuesday, 6 July 2010
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Here's my last assignment for the Formation year just ended.
Interreligious dialogue is a continuation of God’s loving relationship with every person (Paul VI. Ecclesiam Suam.) Illustrate how, based on Scripture, Tradition, Church Teaching and Theological Reflection, “Meeting God in Friend and Stranger” spells this out.
In his homily at Mass at the start of the 25th London Multifaith Pilgrimage for Peace, in Westminster Cathedral, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster stressed the foundational importance of the common humanity that peoples of all faiths have with each other, as the principle basis for interreligious dialogue. All of us, irrespective of our religious affiliation, are children of the one indivisible God, the creator of us all. Therefore, the premise of this essay, contain in the essay question, is true. That indeed, the cause of interreligious dialogue is a continuation of God’s loving relationship with every person. This essay will illustrate, therefore, how this is spelled out, based on Scripture, Tradition, Church Teaching and Theological Reflection, in the recently published teaching document from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, “Meeting God in Friend and Stranger,” (henceforth referred to in this essay MGFS.)
At the outset, it is necessary to define the word ‘dialogue,’ within the context of interreligious relations. Dialogue may be seen as a more technical or complex concept for the average person, who may regard it simply as conversation with another. Certainly there is an element of this in MGFS. However, from a didactic perspective, the Church sees it as far more elaborate. In paragraph one MGFS draws on the 1984 Holy See’s Dicastery for dialogue with other religion’s description by describing interreligious dialogue as more than mundane conversation but that which, ” includes all positive and constructive interreligious relations with individuals and communities of other faiths that are directed at mutual understanding and enrichment.”
Similarly, as noted in paragraph two, when Pope John Paul II addressed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in 1990 he said that, “dialogue is not so much an idea to be studied as a way of living in positive relationship with others.” It seems to the essayist that this definition provides a dynamic to the concept of dialogue that positions dialogue over and above words, and provides the basis for establishing a positive interreligious culture, that in itself provides the basis for the positive relations required. Thus dialogue, from a Catholic perspective, is a mindset. It is beneficial to examine the nature of this dialogue from differing perspectives as understood by MGFS, that is, as mediated to us through Divine Revelation – Scripture, Tradition and the Teaching (Magisterium) of the Church and reflected on theologically.
From the Scriptural perspective it may initially seem difficult to establish justification for interreligious dialogue, other than perhaps with those of the Jewish faith, in view of such a declaration in psalms 113 and 115 that,” their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands…their makers will come to be like them. Yet by definition interreligious dialogue does not preclude any faith, and is the continuation of a loving converse between God and all people. As MGFS states in paragraph 116,” the pursuit of dialogue stems from our belief that humanity is one, and that elements of truth and holiness are present in other religions.” In so far as this is taught, what is the Scriptural basis that MGFS cites?
As MGFS illustrates in paragraph 118, the unity of humanity from the outset, sharing a common existential condition conditioned by sin, is,“ in the earliest part of the Bible, in the creation stories themselves, and in the covenants with Noah before and after the Flood.” Additionaly, as indicated in paragraph 119, Chapter 12 of Genesis narrates the call of Abraham, which has a universal application of God’s salvation in the promise made to him by God,” your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice (22:18). Similarly, the pericope of Jesus’ interaction with the Syrophoenician woman at the well, illustrates the loving continuation of God with all people, other than those who might be “chosen.” (Mt 15:28).
Another component of how God continues his loving relationship will peoples of all religions is that of Church Tradition. MGFS acknowledges that current initiatives in the area or interreligious dialogue are a departure from what was previously in place, presumably pre-Vatican II? MGFS is explicit in paragraph 126 that the Church has in history given, “the same priority given to the old and new People of God as the recipients of a uniquely personal revelation of God and his will.” MGFS also states, albeit with somewhat limited evidence, that recognition was occasionally given to God’s saving activity outside the Church. The evidence for this is the phrase, ‘seeds of the Word,’ originating from the early Church Fathers as an acknowledgments that even in pagan cultures God was present (paragraph 63.) MGFS also cites in paragraph 126, the examples of the Jesuit missionaries, Matteo Ricci and Roberto de Nobili, and how they were, “impressed by some of the aspects of the ancient cultures and religions they encountered in China and India, seeing in them elements of truth and holiness.”
From a more contemporary perspective MGFS identifies that note must be made of the examples of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI in respect of the former’s visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem and, the latter’s visit to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
In relation to Church teaching, paragraph 37 of MGFS, states that Nostra Aetate (In our Age,) is the the most significant teaching document on interreligious dialogue, issued by the Second Vatican Council. As an illustration of God’s continuing loving relationship with every person, it encourages Christians to,”preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture, (paragraphs 39.) Other significant Church teaching is contained in the Declaration Dominus Iesus, issued in 2000. Issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it caused some initial consternation when issued, however, it stated encouragingly, “interreligious dialogue... requires an attitude of understanding and a relationship of mutual knowledge and reciprocal enrichment...” (paragraph 39.)
As an example of recognising the intrinsic dignity of each person, loved in a continuing relationship by God, MGFS also cites, Dignitatis Humanae (‘Human dignity,’) which states that,” the human person has a right to religious freedom,” (paragraph 56.)
Having considered the above aspects of Divine Revelation where God has revealed himself to all peoples, there is the theological reflection that such Revelation engenders, triggered by the components of Divine Revelation. MGFS teaches categorically in paragraph 53, and as an illustration of God’s continuing loving relationship with each human being that, “we must never forget the fundamental truth that judgment about people’s eternal salvation belongs to God, and to God alone.” On this basis we can all be humbled that irrespective of what religious affiliation we have, that God has revealed himself in ways that will never be known to us, as the Holy Sprit cannot be contained within a specific set of religious structures or doctrines. There are obvious implications here for our theological reflection, as a consequence of the document. Not least one its fundamental principles that we have an obvious common humanity, and that should the starting point for all our dialogue, and not from a starting point of the differences our religious affiliations introduce. Without moving towards a syncretism, perhaps this is what the Holy Spirit is emphasising to us now – our common humanity as a means of unity in diversity.
This is even more imperative now with the precarious condition of world peace. As Kevin McDonald writing in the Tablet says, “it is now increasingly appreciated that there can be no peace in the world without peace between religions.” (May 2010.) And again, in the same article, “a new theology comes from us together, in search of common ground.’ (May, 2010.) The imperative is the search for common ground based on our common humanity, as the foundation for a new theological expression. However, this is not without risk to a new approach to local theological reflection, and a resultant catechesis and evangelisation, because, as Alfred Agius writing in the same edition of The Tablet as Kevin McDonald says, “this document will not achieve its purpose if it does not filter down to the people in the parishes.” This is critical, because as Agius emphasises, this is not just a statement from the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, but a teaching document, and as such, it should be communicated so that parishes can respond to this exercise of the ordinary Magisterium of the Church
MGFS is a remarkable and timely teaching document from the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales. It sets out their vision and policy for fostering respect and mutual understanding between the religions. Fundamental to this is the principle sine qua non that interreligious dialogue is a continuation of God’s loving relationship with every person, and that there is evidence based in Scripture, Tradition, Church teaching and theological reflection to support this, as this essay has illustrated in a limited manner.
Agius, A. 2010, “God’s saving grace is offered to all human beings no matter what their religion is.” The Tablet (24TH April) pp15-16.
McDonald, K. 2010, “In search of common ground.” The Tablet (24TH April) pp14-16.
Meeting God in Friend and Stranger. 2010. Accessed 22nd May 2010