Thursday, January 19, 2012

Interfaith dialogue? Recognizing catholic uniqueness





Why is inter-religious dialogue lagging despite the Vatican and egregious acts such as prayer meetings in Assisi? The answer is in the work of Karl Becker, 84 year old Jesuit, who Benedict XVI has decided to appoint as Cardinal, in the continued practice of filling the club of cardinals with theologians, even if non-voters. The Pope and Becker know each other well, since Becker has taught at the Gregorian University in Rome and at the same time worked as a «consultant» for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for many years, when Ratzinger was Prefect.

Becker's thoughts in this regard emerge from the weighty and important collective work edited by him, entitled Catholic Engagement with World Religions, defined as a text for «orientation in the theology of religions». The problem could be summarized as: the Council requires that the Church partake in interreligious dialogue, however the Catholic world has a Revelation that applies to all mankind and is the last word on the relationship between God and the world; as a revealed religion it is one step higher than other faiths, and even though it acknowledges the presence of «seeds of truth» (expression of the Council) it cannot however endorse any kind of syncretism, nor dialogue that questions the Revelation which Catholicism indicates.

The volume broadly divides the thesis, reviewing the issue of interreligious dialogue from an historical and theological point of view, in relation to different western and eastern worldwide traditions that are dealt with fully and in depth. Pluralism, born from the end of the religious wars in Europe and under the pressure of democratic visions, obscuresthe uniqueness of the Christian doctrine of salvation brought by Christ for all mankind, relativizing the Christian view of human nature and its destiny as the bearer of the divine spark (of the God of the Bible and New Testament).

Of course, true inter-religious dialogue has different aspects: the monks in the East (especially the Benedictines) pioneered a much disputed piece of work by founding of the ashram, opening a new road for Catholic presence and consideration. Common prayer, charity and substantially agreeing to eradicate religious conflicts are all certainly very important in terms of mutual trust between religions. Theologians often go further with dialogue (and several of them have been censored and silenced), trying to understand how to follow the path laid out by the Council.

The book in question shows that there is still much to do and has the great merit of firmly expressing the official positionof the Church, the Pope and the Magisterium. History will do the rest.


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