November 29, 2019

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Dialogue provides a great service in the name of unity

Fr. Rick GintherRecently, I looked back through the 57 previous “That All May Be One” columns. I found one topic glaringly missing: an overview of official dialogues.

The word “dialogue” has appeared to date in 31 of my 57 columns (54 percent). It was used 126 times, from one time in a column to as many as 19 times.

Three times, specific official dialogues have been noted: Anglican/Catholic, Lutheran/ Catholic, and Methodist/Catholic. But there are more.

Official dialogues are commenced and overseen by the Vatican and by bishops’ conferences.

Vatican-sponsored ecumenical dialogues and dialogues with Jews (religious relations with Judaism) are overseen by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU).

Vatican-sponsored interreligious dialogues are overseen by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) follows the same division of oversight as the Vatican.

The USCCB website outlines the breadth of its official ongoing dialogue work. At the bottom of its home page is a listing of the varied offices and programs. Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (EIA) is this office’s official site.

The left banner notes the many dialogue partners. Ecumenical includes Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Polish National Church, Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, Methodist, Evangelical and Southern Baptist.

Other varied ecumenical ties are through organizations: Christian Churches Together (e.g., American Baptist and Evangelicals, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, etc.); Faith and Order (National Council of Churches); and Friends of EIA (African-American Churches, Pentecostal, Holiness and Evangelical Churches, Mennonite, Brethren, Friends Brederhof Community, and Disciples of Christ).

Jewish includes the National Council of Synagogues and Orthodox Union.

Interreligious includes Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Multilateral Dialogues (Shoulder to Shoulder and Religions for Peace USA).

There are some Christian, Jewish and other religious sects that to date have not entered formal, or even, informal dialogue. Let us pray for the day when such relationships begin.

International (Vatican-sponsored) and national (USCCB-sponsored) dialogues typically are convened by a representative of the Roman Catholic Church and a like representative from the other church or religion.

These representatives are individuals who are well-versed and educated in their own traditions. They are trusted by their religious peers. They are appointed for a term of service to the official dialogue.

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein was for years the Church’s international dialogue representative to the Disciples of Christ. The latter, internationally headquartered in Indianapolis, was represented by Rev. Robert Welsh.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin is the official national dialogue representative to the Orthodox Churches. His counterpart is Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Metropolis of Boston.

There is not enough room here to describe the inner workings of the EIA office, but they do a great service in the name of unity, religious understanding, and religious freedom.

This brief outline of the many dialogue partnerships is overwhelming for me! I can only imagine it is for you, too.

But beyond overwhelmed, I am thankful. I am thankful for living in this age of outreach and mutual understanding. I am thankful for each moment I learn more from other Christians or other religions. Through them, I grow ever stronger in understanding and embracing my own Catholic faith.

And I am told by these other “friends” that they in turn are strengthened in their faith and religion due to my witness.

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs. He is pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Indianapolis.)

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