Interfaith Dialogue - A Catholic View

Interfaith Dialogue ­ a Catholic View, by Michael L Fitzgerald and John BorelliI SBN 0-28`-05383-9

For a great many people, the notion of dialogue and interaction with the faithful of other Religions is still something new. The 'pull' to remain closed in our own Christian community, within the security it offers, is strong. For Roman Catholics the turning point was the Second Vatican Council, held in the early 1960s. In a talk I heard by Tom Stransky, one of the architects of the Vatican II documents on other Religions and on Religious Freedom, he conveyed the radical "newness" of what the Holy Spirit achieved through the Council in the Church's relations with people of other Faiths. It was a complete turnaround.

Two Catholics who have played a very significant part in helping the wider community to absorb, understand and implement the teaching of the Council are the authors of this magnificent book. Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald is a Missionary of Africa (White Father) who has specialised in Islam and Christian-Muslim relations. He spent many years at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in Rome and is currently the Pope's Ambassador to Egypt and the Arab League. John Borelli is a layman who became Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. In that role he oversaw dialogue with Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. He is currently Special Assistant to the President for Interreligious Initiatives at Georgetown University in Washington DC.

Following most valuable pages on their personal journeys, the book expands into three sections: Dialogue in General, Christian-Muslim Relations and Wider Horizons.

Dialogue in General is particularly useful to those starting out on the road of friendly relations with neighbours of other Faiths. It considers the basis for the Catholic Church's commitment to interreligious dialogue; the types of dialogue (dialogue of life, of action, of discourse and exchange on particular subjects and themes, and the dialogue of religious experience); and the dispositions for dialogue, especially a balanced attitude and strong religious conviction. This is followed by theological reflections on religious pluralism, on Jesus Christ as "the Way" and on the role of the Spirit. An excellent chapter addresses 'pluralism and the parish' in a way which many pastors and people would admire, touching on the "do's and don'ts" of interreligious prayer and on the delicate question of interfaith marriages. The final chapter upholds the essential role of the laity in furthering dialogue.

Christian-Muslim Relations are nothing if not vital for peace and harmony in our society today. The seven chapters illuminate in particular the change 'from heresy to religion', Muslims in Europe and the contribution of Christians and Muslims together to creating a culture of peace.

Wider Horizons presents a broad range of considerations in seven further chapters. Particularly helpful are those on "Witnessing to Christ: ecumenism and interreligious dialogue", the chapter on forgiveness in the various religions and the chapter on the understanding of Christ in religions.

All in all, this book is an invaluable resource and is to be recommended.

first posted LONDON - 14 November 2006 - 500 words

Share this story