DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     August 12, 1999     vol. 10, no. 151

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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200 Participants from Around the World Expected

          VATICAN CITY, AUG 10 (ZENIT).- The Holy See is preparing a meeting of the principal religions of the world, which will be held in the Vatican and Assisi from October 23-28. In addition to being a step forward in dialogue among religious confessions, it will also be a stage in the preparations for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

          There will be 200 participants representing Christianity, as well as leaders of various animist and Asian religions. The sessions will take place in the Vatican and will be followed by a pilgrimage to Assisi. On the last day, a concluding statement will be read in John Paul II's presence. The event will close with festivities for the participants in St. Peter's Square.

    Dialogue and Identity

        Speaking to Vatican Radio, Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, the Vatican entity that is organizing the event, said that some Catholics wonder how it is possible to dialogue with other religions without losing their Christian identity. Dialogue "is a relatively new phenomenon in the Church -- a development of awareness the Church experienced during Vatican Council II -- just 30 years ago. But it is also an understanding of Christ's role, which is fundamental, and for the whole of humanity. He is not just for Christians. John Paul II has referred to this Council teaching: when the Son of God became man, he entered into relationship with every member of humanity, of all times and throughout the world. Therefore, in a certain sense, there is not a single human person who is outside of Christ. With such faith in Christ, who is Lord and Savior of all, we want to meet with people who do not believe in Christ, but who, in a mysterious way, are already joined to him," Bishop Fitzgerald said.

    A Common Adventure

        The Bishop continued, "In fact, we can also see the action of the Spirit of God in the heart of people. We meet people who are good, honest, cooperative and we also see very good elements in the religious traditions -- we can attribute all this to God. We are not coming to the dialogue thinking that we have it all and the others have nothing. Together we shall discover our riches reciprocally. In a certain sense, it is an adventure we are entering together."

    Movements' Contributions

        Teresa Goncalves, an official of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, spoke about the contribution being made to the religious dialogue by the movements and new ecclesial communities, born both before and after Vatican Council II. "They have taken on the commitment to ecumenism and dialogue with the Council's religions."

        Specifically, the Vatican representative mentioned the work, "Men and religions," of the St. Egidio Community that has been carried out since the meeting of religious leaders, called by John Paul II In 1986 in Assisi. Also, the work of the Focolares, "who through the spirituality of dialogue have cemented profound fraternity with persons of other religions," Goncalves explained.

        Goncalves believes "that the lay movements also make a specific contribution because of their integration in society -- in the realms of economics, politics, etc., precisely because of their lay character."

        Bishop Fitzgerald said that Catholic men and women religious will also take part in the meeting, as well as leaders of the movements and new communities. "All the Catholic Church's categories will participate," he explained. "We want to build on the foundations of dialogue, which is already taking place in many areas."

    Artistic Dimension

        In addition, the meeting will have an artistic dimension, "for which today's world has special sensitivity," Teresa Goncalves added. "Because of this, we have thought of organizing a concert in the Paul VI Audience Hall, and have entrusted it to 'Gen Rosso,' an international Christian group -- although there will also be groups from other religions, specifically Japan, India, two Moroccan Moslem singers and the Jewish Choir of Rome. In this way, we hope to entrust the message of dialogue among the religions to the power of artistic communication." ZE990810004

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

August 12, 1999       volume 10, no. 151


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