Friday, February 12, 2016

What is inter-religious dialogue for Pope Francis?

Pope Francis had an audience celebrating the 50th year of the Vatican II declaration, Nostra aetate, a document about the place of the Church amidst other religions. Let us report on this event of Pope Francis with an audience that took place last 28 October 2015. See

1. The Pope says that inter-religious dialogue requires mutual respect and with the aim of “respecting others’ right to life, to physical integrity, to fundamental freedoms, namely freedom of conscience, of thought, of expression and of religion”.
2. Inter-religious dialogue is stimulated by the desire to address the issues of today affecting all humanity. Some time ago religions were understood to talk only about the “after-life”. But contemporary issues raise questions to religions themselves. Contemporary issues challenge religions today. What can all these religions contribute to the growing suffering of people today? What wisdom and insights can religions offer? Too often religions have been perceived as causes of conflicts and poverty. Will this continue even today, or will religions start getting their acts together and address contemporary issues? Inter-religious dialogue, even at the early post-conciliar stages has already been emphasizing our common humanity. Of course the theologies of religion were groping for terminologies and insights--given the trends like "inclusivism" and "pluralism". But inter-religious dialogue became more and more a central effort of the Church. 
3. Pope Francis says that the world asks religions “for effective responses regarding numerous issues: peace, hunger, the poverty that afflicts millions of people, the environmental crisis, violence, especially that committed in the name of religion, corruption, moral decay, the crisis of the family, of the economy, of finance, and especially of hope”. 
4. Dialogue, for the Pope, helps people of different religious traditions to turn towards “friendship and cooperation in many fields, especially in service to the poor, to the least, to the elderly, through welcoming migrants, and attention to those who are excluded”. Dialogue is also about believers of different religions to walk together and share plans to overcome poverty and ensure dignity in life. The Pope exhorts that “we must always seek to leave the world better than we found it, beginning with the environment in which we live, and the small gestures of our daily life”.
5. The Pope says that religions have no recipe for solving these problems of the world today. But people can pray together. Prayer, he says, “is our treasure, from which we draw according to our respective traditions, to request the gifts that humanity longs for”.

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