Westminster Interfaith: Promoting Dialogue Between People of Faith

The agency of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster for Interreligious Dialogue

Westminster Interfaith Newsletter

Issue 65 – February 2010

"Meeting God in Friend and Stranger"

Recently, diocesan inter faith coordinators were invited to a meeting at Eccleston Square by Katharina Müller, the newly-appointed secretary to the Bishops' Committee for Relations with Other Religions, to discuss the launch of the new Catholic teaching document on inter-religious relations: "Meeting God in Friend and Stranger", which the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales is launching on 23 April 2010 – St George's Day. So look out for it.

Although a number of guidelines on inter-religious dialogue already exist in English, this will be the first comprehensive Catholic teaching document on interfaith relations within these isles. A lot of work has gone into putting it together. It has been approved by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue within the Holy See.

Archbishop Kevin McDonald, chairman of the committee, explained clearly, from theological, historical and social perspectives, why the Catholic community needs such a document. He made regular reference to the document itself and to the teaching of the Catholic Church on inter-religious dialogue especially since the Second Vatican Council. The Bishops would like all Catholics to read and reflect on this document so that they can respond appropriately to friends and strangers of different faiths in our present multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. He emphasized, in particular, the need for dialogue at all levels and the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of people of different faiths.

Katharina then gave us a brief summary of the document as well as a few extracts to consider. There followed a lively discussion out of which came a number of practical recommendations on how to use and disseminate the document, including the production of resources, so that it could be accessible to a wider range of people.

It is a substantial document of about 60 pages, with plenty of Scripture references and quotes from Vatican II and later Church documents, which refer to inter-religious relations. The document will be divided into six sections under the following headings:

  • What is Inter-religious dialogue?
  • The changing face of Britain;
  • Dialogue in the teaching of the Catholic Church;
  • Prayer and Worship;
  • Inter-religious marriages;
  • At the local level.
Theological and social aspects of dialogue are dealt with first, followed by the practical implications of interfaith relations, which concern us at grass roots level. The Bishops are hoping to produce study materials to go with the document, which will be very helpful, and hopefully, the document and materials will be available on the Net.

We look forward to the publication of "Meeting God in Friend and Stranger". We hope to review the document in a subsequent issue.

Jon Dal Din

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