What is your opinion on interreligious dialogue?
Answer: Interreligious dialogue is an encounter between people of different faiths in an atmosphere of freedom and openness. It is the attempt to listen to others and to understand their religion – in the hope of finding possible cooperation. The dialogue is borne in the hope that the partner shares and reciprocates this concern. After all, genuine dialogue is no one-way street but is reciprocal and demands, above all, openness and listening as well as an active contribution. Francis Arinze, “Meeting Other Believers” (1998), P. 10.
Listening is of capital importance for any dialogue. It is also the hardest. It can only succeed if I value the other person, if I respect his or her religious convictions, prayers, way of life and want to understand them on a deeper level – and when I am convinced that this is worth my time. The best technique to create trust is often simply the willingness to listen, the attempt to understand one another and to ask when something remains unclear. Attempting to understand one another in dialogue supersedes understanding texts since the person opposite me is alive and this allows for a spirited and unpredictable process of questions and answers to develop. This dialogue of questions and answers allows each side to critically question the other and to try to present his or her convictions and faith most clearly.
An important document by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue differentiates between the following methods and levels of dialogue:
- the dialogue of life
- the dialogue of action
- the dialogue of theological exchange
- the dialogue of spiritual experience.
Of course, interreligious dialogue as part of the Church’s mission does not absolve the Church from its commandment to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples. An attitude of respect and reverence towards non-Christian religions is the human prerequisite for a communication built on trust. Since formally declaring at the Second Vatican Council that she rejects nothing that is true and holy in religions the Church signaled not only her openness to dialogue but, at the same time, a faithful openness to experiencing the transcendent as a common basis for dialogue, which precedes every theological reflection on and articulation of faith. Both moments – dialogue and mission – are indispensable, mutually connected and mutually moulding elements of the Church’s mission.