X ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
"The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World"
NINTH GENERAL CONGREGATION, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5TH 2001 - AFTERNOON
Rev. Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus.
I would like to make some considerations on interreligious dialogue discussed in the Instrumentum Laboris in chapter 5, numbers 135-136. Under the guidance of the bishops already committed in this field many members of the consecrated life are dedicated to the mission of the Church in undertaking and pursuing interreligious dialogue, convinced that they will find the only true religion in the faith taught to them by the Catholic Church, to which the Lord Jesus entrusted the mission of proclaiming the good news to all peoples, of any religion. In this mission, difficult and delicate, where one learns to go forward only by trial and error, the consecrated life expects and appreciates the guidance and support of the bishops.
In this mission of dialogue, it will be of great help in the consecrated life for the bishop to promote in his diocese awareness of the meaning and practice of this dialogue. In fact, nearly forty years after the Council, many Catholics still do not understand very well what the Church proposes in its mission and in a spirituality of dialogue. Some think that they need do no more than preach from the rooftops; while others do not feel prepared for a theological discussion with men and women of other religions.
Dialogue is not only the task of experts and professionals. Dialogue means sharing our own life on all levels with people of other religions. This is the aim of the teaching of the Church when it states the four well known levels of dialogue:
- sharing of life at the level of being with others on a common path,
- sharing at the level of working with others in the dialogue of action and of solidarity for the commmon good,
- sharing with others ideas and convinctions, studying and discussing problems, including theological ones, together,
- sharing with others the experience of God, as far as possible, in dialogue on religious and spiritual commitments.
On each of these levels, as Pope John Paul II said in Redemptoris Missio (57), dialogue is the duty and responsibility of every Christian and every Christian community. As an expression of the new commandment, this dialogue requires an integral approach and cannot remain at the level of polite words, ambiguous language or meetings which instead of being real encounters are just media events.
The Instrumentum Laboris underlines the responsibility of the bishop in teaching by words and example the real meaning of dialogue. Through pastoral letters and public statements taking into account interreligious dialogue, the bishop teaches the faithful of his diocese the meaning and the practice of dialogue, its motivations, its possibilities and its conditions. The bishop teaches by willingness to meet persons of other religions and to discuss with them; by the desire to make joint statements on major topics; by the desire to work together for peace and reconciliation, always ready - according to the Spirit of the Lord - to take the first step. The bishop also teaches by setting up in the diocese an efficient commission for dialogue, with significant acts of greeting in the festivities of the other religions and willingly receiving their visits during Christian celebration, and finally by ensuring an adequate preparation aso that the members of different religions may live together in seminaries, faculties and houses for the formation of the consecrated life. The Holy Father has now opened so many doors that have been closed for centuries.
The way of acting of Our Lord is a modell for dialogue. His dialogue with the Samaritan and the discovery of the faith by a Roman soldier are just two examples of the Word of God which proposes rather and does not impose the good news. The kenotic dimension of the Lord draws special significance for a spirituality of dialogue. Without renouncing His own identity, the Lord took on human shape and semblance out of love. Pope John Paul II indicates the kenotic hymn in the letter to the Philippians as being the essential characteristic of missionary spirituality (Redemptoris Missio 88) of which interreligious dialogue is a dimension.
The bishop is called upon to teach this love, humble and often humiliating, which nurtures dialogue, repeating - especially in circumstances of violence and polarization - the truth of the Gosepl, proclaiming that the Lord loves everyone without exception; that we cannot resort to violence in the name of a Christ who loves, and that it is the sincere love for others in the Spirit that must characterize Christians in participating in dialogue which bears witness to Christian love.
[Original text: Italian]
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