Dear Frank, Thanks for your letter of June 23, 3000. Congratulations on your appointment as Interreligious Dialogue Coordinator fot he U.S. Jesuits. I will be happy to work with you and others in Jesuit institutions in building bridges,
Regarding my own ongoing work, I am an advisory member of the Board of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue. We are planning a follow-up to the Gethsemani Encounter, to be held in April, 2002. MID is also publishing some essays by American Buddhists reflecting on the wisdom of Benedict's rule from Buddhist perspectives. MID will host a conference on the theme of "Benedict's Dharma" in Indianapolis in Sept., 2001.
The Faiths in the World Committee of the National Association of Diocesan Ecumenical Officers (on which I also serve) hosted the first national-level Buddhist-Catholic dialogue in Malibu, CA in Oct., 1999. I gave one of the talks. The follow-up called for regional dialogues to be fostered. There has been some general talk about doing something in the northeast, but I don't know anything definite at this point. Joan Chatfield at Maryknoll also talked about starting a Buddhist-Catholic dialogue, but I think she is also pretty busy at the moment.
I am a member of the Midwest Regional Muslim-Catholic dialogue and am on the writing team preparing a document on Revelation: Muslim and Catholic Perspectives. I just finished writing a first draft of one section of the document--re Christian views of revelation: its meaning, revelation/salvation history, and the forms of revelation. Rita George from the Archdiocese of Chicago is writing a section on "Living Revelation." Muslims will write comparable sections from their own tradition. We will meet in Indianapolis next Nov. to discuss the document. It is not clear if it will be sent to the NCCB for their approval or simply issued in the name of the dialogue. The Muslims are from the Islamic Society of North America.
In Chicago I was a member of the Chicago Jewish-Catholic scholars dialogue, but I have not done anything in that area since coming to NYC. I went on a fact-finding delegation sponsored by the American Committee on Jerusalem to Israel and Palestine last May. We met with a number of Palestinians, one Israeli cabinet minister, a couple of university presidents, and a number of religious leaders, including the Latin Patriarch, the Catholic bishop in Nazareth, and a Palestinian Greek Orthodox Archimandrite.
You have a copy of my most recent book, and so you know the direction of my recent thought. I am currently looking at the impact of interreligious dialogue on Christian faith and practice in the U.S., including people like Bob Kennedy and others who do Buddhist-style meditation practice as Christians. I am editor of Chicago Studies and and editor-at-large for The Christian Century, and so I write articles every now and then on interreligious topics for those publications.
At Fordham I taught a course on Scriptures of the World's Religions for sophomores, and I include some materials on other religions in my freshman course on Faith and Critical Reason. I include some materials on interreligious dialogue in my graduate courses on Christology and Method in Theology. I have offered to teach a graduate course on interreligious dialogue or comparative theology, but so far they have needed me to do Christology or Method in Theology as a higher priority. We have been discussing Christianity in global perspectives. There is not much energy to go back to the Tom Berry style of studying other religions, but there is a general interest that someone be involved. Ewert Cousins had great hopes of reviving this spirit, but he is retiring and will not be teaching at Fordham again as far as I know. Don Moore's departure for Jerusalem also left a hole.
My sense is that the most intense period of Fordham's involvement was when Tom Berry was here. Since his departure, individuals worked in this area, esp. Ewert, Jose Pereira, and Don Moore, but it was not much of an institutional priority. The current chair, Harry Nasuti, seems to like that I am involved in this type of work. I doubt that the department as a whole will get very directly involved in IRD, but I think they will support the endeavors of myself and others.
I would be happy to meet with others from Jesuit institutions who are involved in similar work, but I do not have a particular agenda for such a meeting. I have not sensed much dialogue with other Jesuit schools at Fordham so far.
PS The only thing I would add is that the Faiths in the World Committee met in September and approved the project of planning a Buddhist-Catholic retreat-dialogue on the east coast. I have been in touch with Jay Rock, director of Interfaith Relations for the National Council of Churches, and he is very interested in working with us and has a number of Buddhist contacts who would be interested.
Created: September 2, 2000 Updated: September 2, 2000