Thursday, May 25, 2006

"Muslims, Hindus and so forth" not "fine as they are": Papa Benny

Just today, I got around to reading the Holy Father’s homily for the ordination of 15 new priests in the diocese of Rome on May 22nd. It contains the following interesting comment:

“Jesus' mission concerns all humanity. Therefore, the Church is given responsibility for all humanity, so that it may recognize God, the God who for all of us was made man in Jesus Christ, suffered, died and was raised.

“The Church must never be satisfied with the ranks of those whom she has reached at a certain point or say that others are fine as they are: Muslims, Hindus and so forth. The Church can never retreat comfortably to within the limits of her own environment. She is charged with universal solicitude; she must be concerned with and for one and all.”

Interesting, eh?

I should draw your attention to the outcome of a five day joint WCC/Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue sponsored interfaith coversation on the topic of "“Conversion – assessing the reality”" which includes the following affirmation: (:

"Freedom of religion is a fundamental, inviolable and non-negotiable right of every human being in every country in the world. Freedom of religion connotes the freedom, without any obstruction, to practice one’s own faith, freedom to propagate the teachings of one’s faith to people of one’s own and other faiths, and also the freedom to embrace another faith out of one’s own free choice.

I am working on a review at the moment of Martin E. Marty's new book "When Faiths Collide". Of course he deals with the (by now) rather tired paradigm that in facing the variety of religions we have to chose between "Exclusivism", "Inclusivism" or "Pluralism".

My thoughts have gone in this direction:

One need not seek refuge in a philosophy of pluralism to find a way for religions with a claim to "absolute truth" of peacefully and fruitfully co-existing--even if one of these religions is somehow the "official" or "public" religion of a given place. What is necessary is that among the absolute truth claims of such religions is the agreed doctrine of the absolute and inviolable dignity of every human being, and, following from this, the defence of freedom of conscience and religion.

This indeed is what the Catholic Church did at Vatican II. It did not abandon its claim to absolute truth, but embraced the doctrines of the dignity of each human being and the freedom of religion as a part of that absolute truth.

This in turn leads to respect for the other who holds conflicting ideas, even if those ideas are not shared, or even rejected.

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