Interreligious dialogue does not intend to relativize the truth, says theologian Ilaria Morali.
In Part 2 of the interview with ZENIT, Morali analyzes the meaning and nature of interreligious dialogue. Part 1 of this interview appeared Friday.
Q: Why can interreligious dialogue not be assimilated to what is happening in the ecumenical realm?
Morali: The reason is quite simple: ecumenical dialogue takes place in an intra-Christian context, between believers of different denominations but united in faith in Jesus Christ. This type of dialogue should aspire to achieve the reconstitution of the unity of Christians – it still does not exist – in the Catholic unity – it already exists in the Catholic Church.
Interreligious dialogue is a relation that is established between Catholic Christians and members of other religions. There is no unity of certain elements of faith as basis for this type of relation. The superposition between interreligious dialogue and ecumenical dialogue is a widespread temptation, which depends largely on the lack of clarity of ideas within our communities.
Nevertheless, there is a common condition for the two forms of dialogue indicated by Paul VI: awareness of the same identity. If, as Catholics, we were to ignore the awareness of our identity in face of a Protestant brother, we would fall into the same error of those faithful who, because they want to dialogue with Muslims, are prepared to relativize their own creed…"
"It is the opinion of many that there is dialogue because no one can presume to know the truth. If this reasoning is translated to the Christian realm, the concrete and tangible risk in many publications and speeches is to relativize the unique value of the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ. This is not the teaching of the Magisterium.
Q: Like the declaration “Dominus Iesus,” you speak of two levels of dialogue, the personal and the doctrinal. In what do they consist and why were they criticized when this declaration was published?
Morali: First of all I would like to state a premise: in the present moment, there is no Christianity-Non-Christian religions dialogue. There is no such possibility by the very fact that neither Hinduism, Buddhism nor Islam constitute in each case a unity presided over by a reference authority. There are very different Buddhisms, Islams and Hinduisms among themselves, although united by some distinctive elements.
This diversity, at times radical, would not be taken into account if one of these religions was considered as an indistinct denomination. Instead, there is the possibility to dialogue with individuals who belong to one or another tradition of a specific religion. I don’t believe, therefore, that large-scale interreligious congresses are the real image of interreligious dialogue.
Q: When does interreligious dialogue take place?
"…Having said this, dialogue between Christians and members of other religions can take place at two levels:
– on political and social topics, for example when we are questioned on the role of religions in the peace process and humanization of the world;
– in topics relating to religious doctrines, for example, the content of salvation according to the corresponding religious doctrines. In this connection, the declaration “Dominus Iesus” clarifies that, although on the level of persons, insofar as persons, those who form part of the dialogue have the same dignity, the same cannot be said on the level of doctrines. If we are Catholics, there is a necessary difference between the Christian message and the non-Christian message. …"
"…From my point of view, with “Dominus Iesus” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has made a bold gesture, at the cost of a certain popularity, again specifying principles that cannot be put to one side. As a believer, moreover, if I lost sight of who I am and what I have received through grace, I could promote a thousand initiatives of dialogue, but none would reflect the Catholic idea.
All this should lead us to acknowledge that, 40 years after the encyclical “Ecclesiam Suam,” the hour has come to recover the first part of its teaching on awareness of Christian identity. In opening ourselves to the other, we have lost in part this essential aspect of our lives. I am convinced that we must re-establish this balance in ourselves and in our communities to give vigor and meaning to our initiatives and our “colloquies” with persons of other religions."