On Friday the Nuncio, Archbishop Peter Wells, led the Institute in a morning of reflection on interreligious dialogue — which he thought includes our interaction with the secular world. He acknowledged the history and work of engagement since the Vatican II document, ‘Nostra Aetate’, but looked to the ‘tomorrow’ of implementation of the ideas expressed in the document.
As Catholics, we can never be self-satisfied, the Nuncio said quoting Pope Francis — because ‘There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer” (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 605). But bearing the good news does not mean proselytizing.
He called us to trust in the openness and goodwill of others, while stating clearly our own beliefs. “One of the greatest services we can perform in interreligious and ecumenical dialogue is explaining clearly and with conviction what we believe and why … but at the same time we must have a spirit of deep respect for others’ traditions — not just tolerance — which leads us to listen attentively and with a loving heart to their experiences.”
Biblical and Theological studies are an instrument of dialogue. The Nuncio encouraged us to read the holy books of other religions with the attitude of learning from it. What counts in dialogue is the growth in mutual understanding in respect. We need to be careful of the ‘fake news’ about what other religions believe; and at the same time be able to articulate what we believe and answer the “fake news” others believe about the Catholic and Christian faith. We must avoid superficiality in dialogue.
After a session of small group discussions the students in particular engaged the Nuncio with questions and reflecions from their experience of other religions in Africa. The experience of the students highlighted the problem between high level understanding between clergy, and yet distrust and prejudice in the grassroots.
The morning reflection left our Institute community with the conviction that ministry of interreligious dialogue must engage the people in the pews.
We truly enjoyed the personal touch of the Nuncio and his willingness to engage informally with everyone. We felt blessed by his presence.
For a full text of Archbishop Peter Wells’ talk click here