We Roman Catholics have always thought of ourselves as adherents to the true faith and everyone else as sort of also rans. We do believe in and support ecumenical activities and we’re in favour of us all being one as long as we’re all Catholic.
Some of that has changed in the last 50 years and Pope Francis’ comments since becoming Pope seem to indicate more attitudinal changes are coming. It will surprise many to know that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has for years encouraged and supported dialogues with some 14 Christian and non Christian faiths. The dialogues are a serious attempt to understand and work with the multitude of traditions, after all, Christians and most non Christians believe in similar moral and ethical precepts.
Our Archbishop, Daniel Bohan, is chair of the CCCB Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews, and Interfaith Dialogue and as such his commission oversees their work. We hear very little of what goes on with these dialogues but in a recent interview with the Archbishop we learned how complex some of them can be. There’s a story elsewhere on the Archdiocesan web site where you can learn something of that complexity with two of the dialogues, one dealing with Jews and the other with Muslims.
Jews, understandably don’t want to deal with any organization that attacks Israel and Muslims see the world quite differently from anyone else. In the case with Jews, they pulled out of dialogue in which they were involved when the United Church decided to boycott goods that come from the West Bank which they see as illegally occupied by Israel. Discussions are on going trying to resolve the issue. With Muslims it’s a little more complex.
As you will see in the story I referred to earlier, Muslims have a different interpretation of what is meant by peace, and have no incentive to reach out to other faiths because, according to people in the Middle East who live and have dealt with Muslims for centuries and understand them better than we in the Western world, they believe God, Allah in their language, ordained a path for them and have no need to reach out to anyone. When you think about it we Catholics had a similar attitude prior to Vatican II.
Despite set backs the dialogues do continue and while we may never see us all “as one” as Christ admonishes these dialogues will lead to better understanding and with understanding comes acceptance and with acceptance comes cooperation and that can only lead to a better world for all of us.