Monday, October 12, 2009

Interreligious Harmony for the Promotion of Civilisation of Peace

Interreligious Harmony for the Promotion of Civilisation of Peace

Archbishop Felix Machado


We as Christians are surrounded by people of so many different religions. As believers in God who is fully and definitively revealed in Jesus Christ, we are nonetheless struck by the religiosity, the sense of the sacred and the spontaneous expression of prayer of the believers of other religions. In this context, I often ponder on the words of Paul VI and those of John Paul II: “Evangelization is to be achieved, not from without as though by adding some decoration or applying a coat of colour, but in depth, going to the very centre and roots of life. The Gospel must impregnate the culture and the whole way of life of man… This work must always take the human person as its starting point, coming back to the interrelationships between persons and their relation with God… This proclamation is relevant also for immense sections of the human race who profess non-Christian religions in which the spiritual life of innumerable human communities finds valid expression. In these we hear reechoed, as it were, the voices of those who for a thousand years have sought God in a manner which, while imperfect, has always been sincere and upright. These religions, possessing as they do, a splendid patrimony of religious writings, have taught generations of men how to pray…1”

Defending his action accomplished in Assisi in 1986 and inviting his closest collaborators to commit themselves to receive the conciliar teachings of the Church John Paul II said: “Every authentic prayer is under the influence of the Spirit ‘who intercedes insistently for us… because we do not know how to pray as we ought,’ but he prays in us ‘with unutterable groanings’ and ‘the one who searches hearts knows what are the desires of the Spirit (Rm 8:26-27). We can indeed maintain that every authentic prayer is called forth by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in the heart of every person… the unity that comes from the fact that every man and woman is capable of praying, that is, of submitting oneself totally to God and of recognizing oneself to be poor in front of him2”

A few months earlier to his inviting the leaders of different religions to pray for peace in Assisi the same Pope had said to the representatives of various religions in India: “As an inner attitude of the mind and heart, spirituality involves an emphasis on the inner man and it produces an inward transformation of the self. The emphasis on the spiritual nature of man is an emphasis on the sublime dignity of every human person. Spirituality teaches that at the core of all outward appearances there is that inner self which in so many ways is related to the Infinite. This spirituality of inwardness which is so predominant in the Indian religious tradition achieves its complement and fulfillment in the external life of man3”.

1. Searching for deeper motivation for Engaging in Interreligious Dialogue

I have been wondering if the term ‘interreligious dialogue’ adequately and correctly communicates what the Church intends by its teaching concerning relations with other religions. Does it not give an impression of engaging in a purely cerebral discussion? Is it not a term which seems to limit interreligious relationships to a few select experts? In the Church’s invitation to her faithful to commit to interreligious dialogue there is primarily an aspect of a religious person meeting another religious person, people of one religion encountering people of other religions. The ‘religious’ dimension seems to me at the centre of the Church’s call to interreligious dialogue. I am prompted to recall here another discourse of John Paul II: “The fruit of dialogue is union between people and union of people with God, who is the source and revealer of all truth and whose Spirit guides men in freedom only when they meet one another in all honesty and love. By dialogue, we let God be present in our midst, for as we open ourselves in dialogue to one another, we also open ourselves to God. We should use the legitimate means of human friendliness, mutual understanding and interior persuasion4”.

What makes my encounter with a Hindu an act of interreligious dialogue is his and also my openness to God5 and therefore openness to others. Surely we are not talking here of the same belief in that God. But for both of us our meeting has a transforming value which is an essential element of spirituality. On my part this encounter provokes in me a deeper realisation of God (and who I am and who others are) whose source and modalities I, as a Christian, find in the Blessed Trinity. Thus my encounter with a Hindu (or a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or a Sikh) becomes for me an occasion for self-transformation.

2. Engagement in interreligious dialogue is motivated by Christian faith

The explicit practice of Interreligious dialogue in the Catholic tradition dates back to the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (1962-1965). But even before the Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) was promulgated (19 October 1965) Paul VI had expressed the following challenge to the religious leaders (3 December 1964) who represented different religions in Bombay (now Mumbai): “We must therefore come closer together, not only through the modern means of communication, through press and radio, through steamships and jet planes – we must come together with our hearts, in mutual understanding, esteem and love. We must meet not merely as tourists, but as pilgrims who set out to find God – not in buildings of stone but in human hearts. We must meet man, nation must meet nation, as brothers and sisters, as children of God.6” In the course of these forty years the Catholic tradition has been evidently enriched by the challenge of interreligious dialogue. There have arisen also some important questions and concerns for the Catholic side as its faithful engage in dialogue with other religions and their respective adherents7. But the Church keeps exhorting her sons and daughters to pursue the path of dialogue. At the dawn of this new millennium John Paul II said: “… a relationship of openness and dialogue must continue. In the climate of increased cultural and religious pluralism which is expected to mark the society of the new millennium, it is obvious that this dialogue will be especially important in establishing a sure basis for peace and warding off the dread spectre of those wars of religion which have so often bloodied human history. The name of the one God must become increasingly what it is: a name of peace and a summons to peace”8.

Is the Catholic Church’s commitment to interreligious dialogue purely for sociological reasons? Does this commitment on the part of the Catholic Church involve only anthropological concerns? Should we not at the same time seek and deepen theological and spiritual foundations for interreligious dialogue? In fact, the Catholic Church is motivated to dialogue with other religions mainly for theological and spiritual reasons: “The Church…feels itself called to dialogue principally because of its faith. In the Trinitarian mystery, Christian revelation allows us to glimpse in God a life of communion and interchange. In God, the Father, we contemplate a pervasive love unlimited by space and time. Every reality and every event are surrounded by his love… the Church has the duty of discovering and bringing to light and fullness all the riches which the Father has hidden in creation and history, not only to celebrate the glory of God in its liturgy but also to promote among mankind the movement of the gifts of the Father… In God the Son we are given the word and wisdom in whom everything was already contained and subsisting even from the beginning of time. Christ is the Word who enlightens every person because in Him is manifested at the same time the mystery of God and the mystery of mankind (cf. RH 8, 10, 11, 13). He is the redeemer present with grace in every human encounter, to liberate us from our selfishness and to make us love one another as he has loved us…In God the Holy Spirit, our faith allows us to perceive the force of life and movement and continuous regeneration (cf. LG 4) who acts in the depth of people’s consciences and accompanies them on the secret path of hearts towards truth (cf. GS 22). The Spirit also works ‘outside the visible confines of the Mystical Body’ (RH 6; cf. LG 16; GS 22; AG 15). The Spirit both anticipates and accompanies the path of the church which, nevertheless, feels itself impelled to discern the signs of Her presence, to follow Her wherever She leads and to serve Her as a humble and discreet collaborator… The reign of God is the final end of all persons. The Church, which is to be ‘its seed and beginning’ (LG 5,9), is called from the first to start out on this path towards the kingdom and, along with the rest of humanity, to advance towards that goal”9. If it is so, then faith cannot be put into brackets dilited, misrepresented or played down.

3. Open to encounter others while firmly rooted in faith

Every Christian who engages in the apostolate of interreligious dialogue must be aware of the deeper motivation for this engagement. This clarity with regard to the Christian believer’s motivation is necessary in order to avoid, facile irenicism, indifferentism, relativism, syncretism or fundamentalism, all enemies, not only of the Christian faith but also of interreligious dialogue10. Some Christians seem to think that their faith in the mystery of Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, is the obstacle in their way to engage in friendly, open, respectful and harmonious relationships with people of other religions. This faith is considered to be an offence to others. But Christians must know that precisely it is their faith in the mystery of Jesus Christ that becomes the ‘launching pad’, a starting point and a firm foundation for them to engage in interreligious relationships. This is what the Holy Father said to the participants in the ‘Study and Reflection Days’ on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the death of H.E. Mgr. Piero Rossano: “A serious and authentic interreligious dialogue must rest on solid foundations so that it will bear the hoped for fruit at the appropriate time. Being open to dialogue means being absolutely consistent with one’s own religious tradition”11. Openness to others can never be separated from fidelity to Christ’s teaching. In the course of the last forty years, and even before that, we see such unconditional adherence to Christ, Saviour and Lord of all, and openness to others in the lives of many Christians who committed their lives to the apostolate of interreligious dialogue. In fact, the absolute fidelity to Christ, as these examples would show, can become a solid starting point for meeting people and appreciating those riches which – as the Second Vatican Council says – God in his munificence has distributed to the peoples12.

A Church document reminds us that “before all else, dialogue is a manner of acting, an attitude and a spirit which guides one’s conduct”13. It is important, therefore, to address the question of motivation in dialogue in order to shape the attitude and conduct of the Christian partner. A solid theological foundation becomes imperative for every Christian if our dialogue is to be fruitful and enriching.

4. Christian theology and anthropology calls for interreligious encounters

While the Church exhorts Christians to enter into dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions she also admonishes them to bear witness to Christian faith and life14. The Church proposes spiritual foundations for interreligious dialogue by appraising her theology - God is the Father of all15 and anthropology - every human being is created in the image of God16. This God is revealed fully and completely in the salvific mystery of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6)17 and “his gospel in no way detracts from man’s freedom, from the respect that is owed to every culture and to whatever is good in each religion”18. The revelation of God in Jesus Christ is not opposed to the natural thirst every human person has for the absolute truth. In fact, the Church “knows quite well that the divine message entrusted to her is not hostile to the deepest human aspirations; indeed, it was revealed by God to satisfy, beyond every expectation, the hunger and thirst of the human heart. For this very reason the Gospel must not be imposed but proposed, because it can only be effective if it is freely accepted and lovingly embraced”19.

As baptised and active members of the Church Christians are animated by the Holy Spirit who is always present in the Church in a particular manner. Christians are inhabitated by the Holy Spirit and thus they become spiritual members. However, since the beginning of creation the Holy Spirit who hovered over the water (Gn 1:2) has been active in the world, and will remain active until the end of time. Christians must recognise the variety of ways in which the presence of the Spirit is manifested, some of which may be quite surprising20. We cannot set bounds to the action of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is free (2 Cor 3:17). When Christians go to meet with people of other religions they should not think that the Holy Spirit is exclusively in contact with Christians alone. Rather, Christians should be ready to recognise the presence of the Holy Spirit in the others. The Holy Spirit in Christians must reach out to the Holy Spirit in the hearts of other people (e.g. the motto of Cardinal Newman, “Heart speaks to heart”). During his pilgrimage in India John Paul II declared: “The Church’s relationship with other religions is dictated by a twofold respect: Respect for man in his quest for answers to the deepest questions of his life, and respect for the action of the Spirit in man”. Of course, Christians are called to continuously pray for the gifts of fortitude and discernment which are essential elements of spirituality. This is how Christians will learn to ‘discern’ what is good and what is not good in their dialogue with people of other religions.

The possibility of the presence of the Holy Spirit is not only limited to individuals of other religions but can extend to religions themselves. This is affirmed in one of the documents from the International Theological Commission: “Given this explicit recognition of the presence of the Spirit in the religions, one cannot exclude the possibility that they exercise as such a certain salvific function, that is, despite their ambiguity, they help men achieve their ultimate end. In the religions is explicitly thematized the relationship of man with the Absolute, his transcendent dimension. It would be difficult to think that what the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of men taken as individuals would have salvific value and not think that what the Holy Spirit works in the religions and cultures would not have such value. The recent magisterium does not seem to authorize such a drastic distinction”21.

Our faith teaches us that only in the Church are to be found the means of salvation in all their fullness. This should in no way induce the Christian to assume a triumphalistic attitude or to act out of superiority complex22. Principle of ‘entire cum ecclesia’ needs to be recalled as identity of every Christian is the Church. In other words, it could be said that no Christian is a Christian when alone in the sense of individualistic, separated or isolated from the Church. Thus it is necessary “to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body and therefore as ‘those who are a part of me”23. Christians who engage in dialogue with people of other religions need to be anchored in the life of the Church which, “by her relationship with Christ is a kind sacrament or sign of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind. She is also an instrument for the achievement of such union and unity”24. Only good citizens are worthy ambassadors of their countries. A commendable Christian partner in dialogue is one who represents the faith of the Church in its integrity.

5. Sound Practice of faith shapes all interreligious encounters

Spirituality could be described as a mature fruit of a life of faith. Such a life is a fruit of a complete docility to the Spirit. As any other commitment interreligious encounter is a consequence of faith. Christians need to sustain and strengthen this commitment, first of all by evangelical values: Christ’s kenotic dimension (Phil 2:5-8) takes on a special meaning for a spirituality of dialogue. “It is not a matter of losing one’s own identity, but of taking the form and likeness of the other. It is a humble love that fosters diaogue”25. Marcello Zago makes an interesting observation concerning the imitation of Christ, namely, “not only does (Christ) reveal that God loves the world, but he gives himself entirely out of love. This love is expressed throughout his entire life, in his words and in his actions especially in favor of the poor (cf. RM 13-15). In his contacts with others, he engages in controversy only with the members of his own religion; he only turns against the Pharisees and the Scribes. He never engages in controversy about the religious traditions present in Palestine, which he knew and with which he came into contact: Romans, Canaanites and Samaritans. Not only did he arouse faith, but he was able to find it in pagans like the centurion or the Canaanite woman”26. The fundamental virtue of dialogue is charity27 the qualities of which are universal, gradual, solicitous, fervent, and disinterested, without limits and calculations, understanding and adapted to everyone28. We need to bear in mind that engagement in interreligious encounters is not the result of our human strategies or calculations; rather, it is the work of the Spirit itself, the agent and main force of salvific work29. This is why attitude of discernment, that is, the discovery of how the Spirit works in people of other religions and calls them to become involved as cooperating agents in his salvific action is necessary to practice interreligious dialogue.

Engagement in dialogue itself is the deepening of Christian spirituality. We not only need to know the others; we need the others to know ourselves. Interreligious dialogue is a deeply religious activity. In our meeting with the people of Traditional Religion we can discover their emphasis on the search for harmony between living and the deceased, between people and the cosmos, and the social agreement accomplished through words, family, community and life values. In our encounter with Hindus we may be struck by such spiritual values as that of their sense of the sacred and of the divine, the priority of experience and witness, the quest for the real inner self, the virtue of equanimity towards everyone and everything, and of ahimsa or universal love. In meeting Buddhists we may discover their efforts for the search for final liberation in an apophatic Absolute, called sunyata (void), and the development of inner life through the many forms of meditation. In the Buddhist perspective, inner attitudes are more important than external actions; the point of departure and arrival is inward perfection, which determines external behaviour. Ethics and ascetism, and especially altruism, may become grounds for cooperation and exchange. The basis for a dialogue with Confucianism may stem from the importance attributed to interpersonal relations and social cohesion. In the dialogue with Islam, Christians may be attracted by the faith in one only God, the creator and judge of all, by the very universalist claim to having received revelation and conveyed salvation, and by practical consistency. Muslims believe that belonging to Islamic community (Umma) creates special bonds.

“The Christian who meets other believers is not involved in an activity which is marginal to his or her faith. Rather it is something which arises from the demands of that faith. It flows from faith and should be nourished by faith”30. All practice of dialogue needs to be nourished, guided, orientated and directed with the help of God. Dialogue is the result of the action of the Holy Spirit and “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruits of the Spirit are binders in interreligious relations. A Christian who engages in interreligious dialogue needs to be strongly anchored in prayer which is a very effective means of obtaining God’s grace. Both words and silence in dialogue must emerge from the Christian's union with God who is the Father of all. Proposing an eventual document on the Spirituality of Dialogue the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue wrote to the Episcopal Conferences throughout the world: “… the more the partners in interreligious dialogue ‘seek the face of God’ (cf. Ps 27:8), the nearer they will come to each other and the better chance they will have of understanding each other”31.


The term “interreligious dialogue”, which is normally used to indicate the new attitude of the Church since the promulgation of Nostra Aetate fails to communicate accurately the intention of the Church in this matter; it does not fully correspond to the practice carried out by the Church, particularly in the last forty years. Every interreligious encounter begins with an openness to God or in the recognition of transcendental values of life. For a Christian interreligious encounter is rooted in his faith in God who is triune.

What is emphasised by the Church in interreligious encounters today is the meeting of people of different religions on a deeper level, namely, on the level of spirituality. Spirituality involves an emphasis on the sublime dignity of every human person. Spirituality is an attitude, a motivation of the mind and heart which produces an inward transformation of the self. Awareness of a deeper motivation to meet people of other religions helps Christians to avoid facile irenicism, indifferentism, relativism, syncretism or fundamentalism.

Christians are invited to be open to people of other religions while at the same time remain faithful to their own religious tradition. Openness to other religions at the exclusion of fidelity to one’s own religious tradition generally results in relativism; fidelity to one’s own religious tradition in today’s pluralistic world, at the exclusion of openness to the people of other religions, often ends in fundamentalism. Rooted in their faith Christians are urged to engage in meeting people of all religions. God is revealed as the Father of all, He is manifested in Jesus Christ as the enlightening Word, and He accompanies the Church through the Holy Spirit. The kingdom of God is the final end of all persons and the Church, ‘its seed and beginning’, is called from the first to start out on this path towards the kingdom of God, and along with the rest of humanity, to advance towards that goal. Just as only good citizens are worthy ambassadors of their countries so also commendable Christian partners in dialogue are those who represent the faith of the Church in its integrity.

Questions, such as the following, are often raised in conversations among Christians: Why should a Christian engage in interreligious encounters? What is the aim of dialogue with other religions? If one understands the spiritual, anthropological and theological motivation the Christian should have in order to engage in dialogue with people of other religions one will be able to comprehend the answers to the above-mentioned questions which cannot be sought outside the context of the Christians faith and the teaching which is the foundation for Christian anthropology, spirituality and theology of interreligious dialogue. It needs to be emphasised that the Christian partners’ engagement in interreligious dialogue is not prompted by human options or carried out for any tactical or ulterior motives but it is undertaken primarily because it is demanded, above all, by the exigencies of their faith. For Christians’ engagement in interreligious encounters is a way of ‘being’ in pluralistic society. It is important to take into cognisance two points: 1) Our world today is a ‘map of religions’; 2) Faith must be lived in its integrity amidst this world. What is the goal of interreligious dialogue? Answer to this question also must be sought in the Christian faith and teaching. Because for Christians interreligious encounters are intrinsically linked to their faith. Separating the two will do harm to both: neither will it be a genuine Christian interreligious encounter, nor will the Christian practice of faith be credible.

It is necessary to nourish our practice of interreligious encounters with solid spiritual food: God can never become a negotiable item or a marginal thought in our interreligious encounters. He is at the centre or like a foundation of all interreligious encounters. Compassion of God the Father, forgiving love of God the Son and filial warmth of God the Holy Spirit, in other words, the guidance, direction and orientation of the Trinitarian God brings all interreligious dialogue to fruition. The more the partners in interreligious encounters ‘seek the face of God’, the nearer they will come to each other and the better chance they will have of understanding each other.

End – Note:

1 PAUL VI, Post-Synodal Exhoration Letter, Evangelii Nuntiandi (8 December 1975), 53

2 JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Roman Curia, l’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, 5 January 1987, 11.

3 JOHN PAUL II, To the Representatives of the Various Religions of India, Insegnamenti (1986), IX/1, pp.319-324, 2.

4 Ibid., 5.

5 Cf. Frére Roger of Taizé, Les Sources de Taizé, France: Les Presses de Taizé: “A simple desire of God is already a beginning of faith (Lk 17:5-6)”, p. 59.

6 PAUL VI, Address to the Respresentatives of the Various Religions of India, 3 December 1964, Insegnamenti (1964) II, pp. 693-695, 2.

7 JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 56: “Dialogue, however, cannot be based on religious indifferentism, and we Christians are in duty bound, while engaging in dialogue, to bear clear witness to the hope that is within us (cf. 1 Pt. 3:15). We should not fear that it will be considered an offence to the identity of others what is rather the joyful proclamation of a gift meant for all, and to be offered to all with with the greatest respect for the freedom of each one: the gift of the revelation of the God who is Love, the God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16). As the recent declaration Dominus Jesus stressed, this connot be the subject of a dialogue understood as negotiation, as if we considered it a matter of mere opinion: rather it is a grace which fills us with joy, a message which we have a duty to proclaim”.

8 Ibid., n.55

9 Secretaritatus pro non Cristianis (now Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue) The Attitude of the Church towards the Followers of other Religions, Reflections and Orientations on Dialogue and Mission, Pentecost 1984, nn. 22,23 and 24.

10 Denis Isizoh, “Religions in sub-Saharan Africa: Working and Walking together. A Christian Reflection”, in Pro Dialogo, 114, 2003/3: “The spirit that must animate interreligious dialogue includes: consistency with one’s religious traditions and convictions; openness to understand people of other religious traditions without pretence, prejudice, and close-mindedness; honesty; humility and frankness; renunciation of rigid principles; avoidance of false irenicism, intolerance and misunderstandings; realisation that dialogue leads to inner purification and ongoing conversion”.

11 JOHN PAUL II, Discourse, 16 June 2001, Pro Dialogo, 108, 2001/3, pp.291-293.

12 Ad Gentes, 11; cf. also Nostra Aetate, 2

13 Secretariatus pro Non Christianis (now Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue), The Attitude of the Church Towards the Followers of Other Religions, Reflections and Orientations on Dialogue and Mission, (Pentecost 1984), 29

14 Nostra Aetate, 2; cf also John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, n 102

15 JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Roman Curia (22 December 1986), l’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, Jan.5, 1987,3: “The one God in whom we believe, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Most Holy Trinity, created man and woman with particular attention, according to the narrative in Genesis (cf. Gn 1:26ff., 2:7, 18-24). This affirmation contains and communicates a profound truth: the unity of the divine origin of the whole human family, of every man and woman, which is reflected in the unity of the divine image which each one bears in himself (Gn 1:26) and per se gives the orientation to a common goal (cf NA 1)… Accordingly, there is only one divine plan for every human being who comes into this world (cf Jn 1:9), one single origin and goal, whatever may be the colour of his skin, the historical and geographical framework within which he happens to live and act, or the culture in which he grows up and expresses himself. The differences are less important element, when confronted with the unity which is radical, fundamental and decisive”.

16 Nostra Aetate 4; cf. also John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, 55: “… God who desires to call all peoples to himself in Christ to communicate to them the fullness of his revelation and love, does not fail to make himself present in many ways, not only to individuals, but also to entire peoples through their spiritual riches, of which their religions are the main and essential ex-pression even when they contain ‘gaps, insufficiencies and errors”; cf also John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 24: “At the heart of every culture lies the attitude man takes to the greatest mystery: the mystery of God”. Cf also Dominus Jesus, A Declaration on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, which is published by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (6 August 2000): it upholds the equal dignity of all persons, no matter of what religion: “Equality, which is a presupposition of interreligious dialogue, refers to the equal personal dignity of the parties in dialogue, not to doctrinal content, nor even less to the position of Jesus Christ – who is God himself made man – in relation to the founders of the other religions” (n. 22).

17 Cf. also other Biblical texts: Mt. 11:27; Jn 1:18; Col 2:9-10; Jn 3:34; 5:36; 17:4; 14:9; 1 Tim 6:14; Tit 2:13

18 JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter, Redemptoris Missio, 3

19 JOHN PAUL II, homily on Pentecost Day (11 June 2002), 3

20 In his Encyclical Letter Dominum et Vivificantem (18 May 1986) John Paul II refers to the Holy Spirit as the ‘hidden God’ who as love and gift ‘fills the universe’. He invites all Christians to go out to meet the hidden God, a meeting with the Spirit ‘who gives life’ (n. 54).

21 International Theological Commission, Christianity and Religions (30 September 1996), 84

22 Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001): During the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 John Paul II invited Christians to do “examination of conscience, aware that the Church, embracing sinners in her bosom, ‘is at once holy and always in need of being purified’ (LG 8)” , 6

23 Ibid., 43

24 Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium (21 November 1964), 1

25 Marcello Zago, “The Spirituality of Dialogue” in Pro Dialogo 101, 1999/2, p. 243

26 Ibid., pp. 242-243

27 Cf. JOHN PAUL II, To the Religious Leaders of India in New Delhi (7 November 1999), 2: “(The Church) sees this dialogue (with the religions of the world) as an act of love which has its roots in God himself. ‘God is love’, proclaims the New Testament, ‘and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him… Let us love, then, because he has loved us first… no one who fails to love the brother whom he sees can love God whom he has not seen’ (1 Jn 4:16, 19-20).

28 PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam (6 August 1964), 40-48.

29 A recent study by FABC theologians is an example of discernment. Cf. The Spirit at work in Asia Today in FABC papers, n. 81, p. 96

30 Cardinal Francis Arinze, “Letter to Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences on the Spirituality of Dialogue”, Pro Dialogo 101, 1999/2, p. 264

31 Cardinal Francis Arinze, “Letter to Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences on the Spirituality of Dialogue”, Pro Dialogo 101, 1999/2, p.266

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