New book examines church teachings on interfaith dialogue

LONDON - 10 June 2002 - 443 Words

Interfaith Dialogue : the teaching of the Catholic Church, Compiled by Alfred Agius for the Committee for other Faiths of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

Published 2002 by the Catholic Communications Service, 39 Eccleston Square, London SW1V 1BX. e-mail:

This collection of teachings starts from the declaration of the Second Vatican council on religious freedom (Dignitas Humanae,, 1965), and sets out the various teachings of the Church since then which affect interfaith dialogue. Many of these teachings have been delivered by Pope John Paul II during his travels around the globe, and are therefore not readily available by subject - hence this valuable book.

The book is not long: just 61 pages, but throughout holds the tension between the need to proclaim our own faith while at the same time listening carefully to others' beliefs. The technique involves a suspension of any competitive spirit alongside a willingness to consider what other faiths have to offer. Often, in listening to other points of view, a need for a clearer definition of what we believe becomes necessary. This book presents material that can aid such clarity.

The travelling Pope has addressed Catholics living and working under many regimes, and who belong to a minority religious group in their countries. Thus there are comments on the Holocaust, the spiritual richness of Islam, a tribute to Ghandi while in India, and so on. Common themes occurring in Catholic teachings and in other faiths are highlighted: one example of this is the desire for peace amongst both Catholics and Buddhists.

The dialogue which results from interfaith topics must, according to these teachings, be conducted within a relationship of respect and love, and be positive and constructive. While mutual understanding is one outcome, the Church's true motive is to continue the dialogue which flows from God's initiative in entering into dialogue with humankind. Catholics should not react to other faiths with indifference, and attempts at dialogue must continue whatever the circumstances.

Essentially this selection of teachings offers an argument for the importance of spirituality as a dimension of life, and asserts that it is this dimension which allows a measure of true understanding to be reached.

A ' dialogue of life' can then arise a dialogue that springs from faith and is conducted in love.

The book has a place both as a reference book of teachings on interfaith issues and as a good study group text. It will appeal to those who are concerned about the increasing popularity of other faiths (such as Buddhism) in the UK, as well as to those who work among other faith communities.

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