SUGGESTIONS FOR DIALOGUE WITH MEMBERS OF NON-CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS
ISSUED BY VATICAN SECRETARIAT FOR NON-CHRISTIANS
Following is the text of the booklet of "suggestions for dialogue" with members of non-Christian religions, published by the Vatican Secretariat for Non-Christians. The booklet is entitled "Toward the Meeting of Religions," and is the first part of a projected guide for dialogue. It was issued in French and English. It was released September 21.
The present booklet of our Secretariat for non-Christians represents the first part (the general part) of the guide for dialogue, which, on many occasions, has been asked of us by a considerable
number of Ordinaries. It deals with concepts and guidelines which can be applied to a greater or lesser degree to all peoples and to all religions. When they are being translated into local languages,
Ordinaries will be able to adopt them to the local needs.
Another part will follow and will deal with what concerns a particular religion or group of religions. While this booklet deals with the psychological and practical sphere, the second booklet will dwell on the character and "personality" proper to a particular people and will consider its culture and its religion. It will be essentially the work of specialists in each of the fields concerned.
The part which deals with dialogue in general, is characterized by the milieu in which it is placed. On the one hand, it is a milieu of faith and charity, and on the other of human warmth and openness.
Attempts have been made to distinguish dialogue from all other forms of conversation: confrontation, interrogation, instruction, examination, etc. Theoretically these distinctions are well based, but in fact dialogue includes all these things by reason of its needs. It covers and overflows into all these domains, passing from one to the other without pause. But it is always impregnated by its own spirit or atmosphere; that atmosphere which is its "breath of life" and outside of which it can only fade away and die. In divine charity and human understanding, everything becomes dialogue, even those acts, which, although mute of themselves, give the words that significance and weight which they would not have without it.
While the general sympathy is very evident, everyday experience shows the errors that can arise when men meet, who, although well intentioned, lack certain indispensable knowledge. The psychology of peoples differs according to race and culture. Words and gestures do not necessarily have the same meaning for the man to whom we are speaking, as they do for us, who think that the meaning and symbolism of these words and gestures is unmistakable.
This is what is dealt with in the present booklet. It presents us with the spirit and approach that we should have. It then shows those traits which are indispensable to any religion, as much from the point of view of our faith as from that of the science of religions. Finally it offers practical advice on how to avoid the pitfalls. A bibliography concludes the work, and this has been deliberately limited to what is general in scope. The second booklet however will have a more extensive bibliography at the end of each chapter.
It has only been possible here to touch on the vast question of the science of religions, or the relationships between faith and religion. A more thorough initiation will be given in a manual which is at present being prepared in response to requests from seminaries and study centers. Those who wish to enter into the dialogue will also find it useful to consult this manual, and it will be possible to make a special reprint of it for this purpose.
We can only wish this third supplement the welcome extended to the first, namely "The hope which is in us," of which five or six translations have already been requested. This is for us a sign that this work responds to a real need and is therefore of great benefit.
It only remains for me to thank the Very Rev. Father Humbertclaude, our secretary-general, and his collaborators, who have worked with such diligence to prepare this work, to which our
Consultors have contributed.
PAUL CARD. MARELLA
President of the Secretariat for Non-Christians
The Secretariat for Non-Christians was founded for the essential purpose of promoting contact and dialogue between Christianity and the other religions. Its action is carried out through the medium of the Ordinaries, priests, Religious of both sexes and also by means of all Christians who are aware of the integral meaning of their baptism and disposed to act accordingly.
We believe that we are performing a useful service by assembling for their use in the present little book some reflections and suggestions aimed at enlightening and sustaining the meeting
between various religions.
This work, which is the fruit of devoted and qualified collaboration on the part of many, to whom we express here our grateful acknowledgment, has been carried out in the hope of affording a
humble but useful service. If this end is achieved, all those who have contributed will consider their efforts amply repaid.
The subject matter falls into two parts. The first part comprises the more general and fundamental considerations concerning dialogue, its participants, the occasions and means to be utilized. It will
naturally be necessary to introduce certain modifications according to the various situations to which it is to be applied.
The second part treats specifically of the important religions or types of religions to be approached.
lt should be pointed out from the very beginning that while dialogue is an eminently desirable goal to be aimed at by every Christian worthy of the name, it is also a difficult art. It demands a far
from ordinary intellectual qualification, as well as reliable documentation tenaciously acquired and utilized, plus the maintenance of a correct balance between initiative and prudence, both of which are equally requisite.
It will likewise be necessary to avoid what would merely be a premature advance or a misleading syncretism.
There is always possibility of a fairly easy approach to the faithful of other religions in many ordinary spheres of life, and these immediate occasions should be used to advantage. But
reconciliation in truly religious matters is a fruit which ripens slowly as life proceeds, in the sunshine of divine grace.
The path of dialogue is that of the One who said: "I am the way, the truth and the life." This way of truth which leads to life has its starting point in charity. Jesus presents it to us in these terms: "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that those who believe in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting. For God did not send His Son into the world in order to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him" (Jn. 3:16-17).
We shall not experience in a real and habitual manner the need to give and to offer the donation of ourselves in charity unless we have a proper idea, that is to say a really great idea of the wealth of
supernatural life bestowed on us at baptism. The communicative power of our charity will be proportioned to our love and to the intensity of our convictions.
Hence the necessity of beginning to establish and purify and strengthen our faith in the light of charity. This is the course pointed out to us by His Holiness Pope Paul VI in his great Encyclical
"Ecclesiam Suam" which invites to dialogue. When the Holy Father comes to the third attitude of the Church, that of "studying her contacts with human society," he indicates as fundamental the
awareness of a profound difference between ourselves and the world. "The Church's ever-increasing self-awareness can only result in her acting and thinking quite differently from the world around her
which she is nevertheless striving to influence." (A.A.S., 56, p. 637). Besides, Christ's teaching is clear: "Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed in the newness of your mind, that you may discern what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:2).
At first sight there might appear to be a contrast between the attitude of charity which urges toward union and that of faith which insists on distinction. In reality these are two complementary
elements, both of them indispensable for true and useful contacts. Jesus has already told us that when He would be "lifted up" He would draw all men to Himself. The same is true of those whom He has sent. The evidence of our distinction from the rest of the world is that which attracts the attention of those we are seeking. We must certainly approach others impelled by charity, which
tends toward union by assimilation. But we must also remain integrally ourselves, without surrender or compromise in matters of faith. "Modern educators in the Church must remind Catholics of
their privileged position and their obligation to live in the world, but not as the world lives" (Ecclesiam Suam, A.A.S., 56, p. 638).
The chief doctrinal principles will be recalled later, as well as what is learned in the science of religions, before we pass on to what takes place under the impetus of charity, namely dialogue properly so called.
SOME DOCTRINAL POINTS
1. Origin, Nature and Purpose of Christian Faith in the World
Before entering into dialogue with non-Christians, it seems opportune to recall briefly the origin, nature and purpose of Christian faith in the world. No text is more valid for this purpose than the one we find ln Chapter 1 of the conciliar Constitution "Dei Verbum" on Divine Revelation:
"God, who through the Word creates all things and keeps them in existence, gives men an enduring witness to Himself in created realities. Planning to make known the way of heavenly salvation, He went further and from the start manifested Himself to our first parents. Then after their fall His promise of redemption aroused in them the hope of being saved, and from that time on He ceaselessly kept the human race in His care, in order to give eternal life to those who perseveringly do good in search of salvation" (Dei Verbum, 3).
"Then, after speaking in many places and varied ways through the prophets, God 'last of all in these days has spoken to us by His Son.' For He sent His Son, the Eternal Word, who enlightens all men, so that He might dwell among men and tell them the innermost realities about God. Jesus Christ, therefore, the Word made flesh, sent as a man to men, speaks the words of God and completes the work of salvation which His Father gave to Him to do" (Ibid., 4).
"Through Christ, the Word made flesh, man has access to the Father in the Holy Spirit and comes to share in the divine nature " (Ibid., 2). In Christ and by His Spirit, "God is with us to free us from
the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to life eternal. The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away, and we now await no further public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ibid., 4).
"What was once preached by the Lord, or what was once wrought in Him for the saving of the human race, must be proclaimed and spread abroad to the ends of the earth...so that what He once accomplished for the salvation of all may in the course of time come to achieve its effect in all" (Ad Gentes, 3).
2. Situation of Non-Christians in Relation to Salvation
Non-Christians who are deprived of explicit knowledge of Christ nevertheless benefit by the universal Providence of God. They are called upon to recognize the evidence which He gives them of His presence in created things and they receive, moreover, the light which the Eternal Word pours out on all men. Although seriously exposed to sin which afflicts the whole human race, they can count on the efficacious help of God who "is not far from any one of us" (Acts 17:27), and on the hope of salvation promised to men from the beginning of history. Consequently, "those also can attain to everlasting salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and, moved by His grace, strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them, through the dictates of conscience" (Lumen Gentium, 16). A regime of personal graces therefore undoubtedly exists outside the Church and has existed prior to the Church. "God has other ways of saving souls outside the cone of light which is the revelation of salvation" (Paul VI, O. R., May 15, 1965) despite the uncertitude and the arguments carried on by theologians as to the channels by which this grace can reach individual souls, and on the nature of this grace.
What is certain is the fact that God's action reaches men in the very experiences of life and of their conscience, that all divine grace is grace of Christ through the Church and that it "ordains these men" to take their place at the end of time among the People of God. ''Then, as may be read in the holy Fathers, all just men from the time of Adam, `from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,' will be gathered together with the Father in the universal Church" (Lumen Gentium, 2).
3. Role of Good and True Elements in Other Religions
The "good and just," the "true and holy" things to be found in non-Christian religions can be at the same time the fruit and the occasion of this grace and consequently may be regarded as "seed of the Word" and "preparation for the Gospel," providentially arranged by God.
As to the non-Christian religions themselves, as such and considered as historico-cultural facts, the judgment of Christians upon them in the light of the history of salvation ought not to be
univocal and entirely positive. Since the various religions reflect the historical nature of man, created in the image of God, sinful yet called to salvation, we must expect to find present in them
simultaneously all human components. In the final analysis, religions are the social and institutional expression of the religious conscience of a people. Grace and sin therefore exist side by side in them, light and darkness, generosity and selfishness. Like those whom they lead, they "need to be enlightened and purified" (Ad Gentes, 3).
As an expression of man's seeking after God, they are on a different level to that of the Gospel which comes from above as Word and Spirit, gift of faith and charity, announcement and bestowal of salvation by God. But since acceptance of the Gospel presupposes in man a religious soul to be raised up, purified and enlightened, and a fundamental moral rectitude, for this reason the
non-Christian religions in their primary and authentic elements, as an expression of man's aptitude for religion and of the moral law inscribed in his heart, can be considered as ways ordained by God
beforehand in view of salvation and of the Church, to which the spiritual gifts of peoples lead, as was announced by the prophets.
4. The Church Calls to a Human Dialogue
In the presence of the non-Christian religions, the Church is not satisfied with mere proclamation (kerygme) and witness (martyrion), which are in these cases her essential divine task. In addition she urgently exhorts Catholics today through the voice of the Council and the Pope, to establish an actual dialogue on the human level, that is to say, frank and friendly contact, to promote in common the good of the entire community in accordance with the Gospel, also to seek the values inherent in the various religions and finally, to engage in religious dialogue properly so-called. All this, with a view to reciprocal acquaintance and enrichment in the matter of moral and spiritual values, in an atmosphere of friendship, mutual respect and liberty. She is confident that a dialogue of this nature will serve to prepare the way of the Lord and will contribute toward the salvation of non-Christians.
Actually, by virtue of this respectful and fraternal dialogue, the sons of the Church will come to know and appreciate in a more real way God's relations with the world and the relations of revelation and grace with human nature. They will discover the riches and the variety of God's work in the world and will discern the most suitable manner of preaching and witnessing to Jesus Christ among the nations.
5. Degree of Evangelical Preparation in a Given Religion
How can we actually judge the level of evangelical preparation inherent in a religion and in its doctrinal, moral and ritual elements? By the simple use of the criterion of Christian revelation and of natural human reason anchored in the realm of creation. Consequently, everything that is an affirmation of the creature and of its fundamental qualities, "whatever things are true, whatever
honorable, whatever just, whatever of good repute, if anything worthy of praise" (Phil. 4:8) is already pleasing to God and accepted by Him. The same is to be said of every element of a religion which appears to be an obscure prefiguring or prelude to the Christian reality, whether it be doctrine, moral law or rite, in general everything which when compared with the Gospel message appears capable of being elevated, harmonized and of coming to terms with the latter. Then the Council norm may readily be applied concerning traditional ceremonies and customs of non-Christians to be allowed in the liturgy: "Anything in their way of life that is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she (the Church) studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, as long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 37; cf. 123).
The same principle can be applied to the general culture of the various peoples, to their philosophy, their theology and their spiritual and religious life.
1. Timeliness of This Chapter
As the dialogue which the Secretariat is endeavoring to promote is directed toward the non-Christian religions, it seems timely to recall certain indications of the phenomenology and science of religions in order to facilitate a more exact judgment of the religious man and of his possibilities of meeting with God and the Gospel.
First of all it is important to distinguish between religion as an interior dimension of man (religio subjectiva) and religion as an external institution expressing itself in personal or collective beliefs
and practices (religio objectiva).
2. Religion from the Subjective Point of View
Scientific, psychological and philosophical research, as well as
Christian revelation, all recognize in man a sphere which is distinctly characterized by the perception of special links which bind man passively or actively to an ultimate Reality, to which he turns in his sufferings and joys and from which in some way he expects salvation. This religious disposition is not something secondary or marginal in man, but is imprinted in the innermost depths of his being and has dominion over his whole life.(1)
In other words, man is intrinsically open to the supernatural and tends toward it, and everything in his environment testifies to a transcendent Reality. It is true that in general all religious awareness is based on social traditions and not merely on individual reflection. But it is no less certain that the personal religious conscience is not eclipsed by these traditions, but just as it can conform to them, can also criticize them and if necessary rebel against them.
God bestowed this religious nature on man from the first moment of his creation in order that he might seek God and thus achieve his end and his salvation. Christian tradition has made its
own the expression of Tertullian "anima naturaliter Christiana,''while St. Thomas in the Summa against the Gentiles (III, 119) writes: "Homo etiam quodam naturali instinctu se obligatum sentit ut Deo suo modo reverentiam impendat, a quo est sui esse et omnis boni principium" (cf. also S. Th. III, q. 6, art. 5, ad 3: "interiori instinctu"). And a contemporary theologian comments: "Since man comes from God and tends toward him with all the depth and extension of his being continually poised between existence and nothingness...it would be truly surprising if this manner of being which is his were not to be manifested in his conscience" (M. Schmaus, Katholische Dogmatik 1,1 p. 92).
The Christian must therefore learn to read deeply in the souls of all men and to discover what is deep and latent therein, for the religious soul is a treasure which must be known, defended and utilized for the very balance and integrity of man and the achievement of his destiny. In view of the subjective aspect of religion, attention must be paid to the religious differences which exist between one individual and another, and judgment can never be passed a priori on a man's interior dispositions on the mere basis of the sociological religious context.
Moreover, according to Catholic doctrine, every genuine and salutary religious act which proceeds from the human soul is sustained by an intervention of the Divine Spirit and constitutes an
expectation of Christ and an implicit invocation directed toward Him (Conc. Arausicanum, Denz. Sch. 373-377).
Consequently, according to the indications of the council, the Church is to consider with great attention, in every religion, the pursuit of the moral ideal, convinced that the sincere desire for
perfection, the way of self-purification and docility toward the Supreme Good, as well as the search for the Infinite constitute the privileged basis of dialogue and the deep and spontaneous occasion
for the spiritual meeting with non-Christians, according to these words of Pope Paul VI: "We must meet as pilgrims who have set out to look for God, not in buildings of stone, but in the hearts of men" (Address to non-Christians in Bombay, Dec. 4, 1964; Il viaggio di Paolo VI in India, p. 77).
But it can easily be proved, on the other hand, that men when abandoned to their own efforts, do not succeed in obtaining a clear and certain idea of the divine, so that divine revelation appears
extremely desirable to illumine the steps and the aspirations of man toward the supreme realities of which he has some perception (cf. Conc. Vat. I, Denz. Sch. 3005).
At all events, in considering the religious experiences of men, Christians must know how to go beyond certain external appearances which may seem strange or coarse, to discover the hidden basis on which they rest and also the needs from which they spring. Thus they will often come to discover universal religious values, those "semina Verbi in eis latentia" of which Christian tradition speaks (cf. Ad Gentes, 11). They will be careful, for instance, to reject a priori as necessarily and totally monistic and anti-Christian the ideal of identification with the Absolute which dominates Indian spirituality (tat tvam asi: you are that, namely, the Absolute) and Moslem mysticism (ana l-haqq: I am the Reality [God] Hallaj). This aspiration implicitly calls for attitudes and movements
which give forth an authentically religious sound, a religiousness with which the Christian will feel himself to be in harmony: negation of the absolute value of perceptible things, recognition of the incomparable pre-eminence of the Eternal and complete adherence to the latter.
3. Religion from the Objective Standpoint
In considering the objective structure of the various religions, we discover in them the following elements: myths, rites, and elements of natural philosophy, dogmas and articles of faith (especially in Islamism), ethics, asceticism, meditation, prayer and mystical experience. Such is the stuff of which all religions are composed, with variation as to the degree of these elements. The conciliar
Declaration on the Non-Christian Religions recognizes this expressly in the case of Hinduism: "In Hinduism men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an unspent fruitfulness of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek release from the anguish of our condition through ascetical practices or deep meditation or a loving, trusting flight toward God" (Nostra aetate, 2).
The same declaration explains the fundamental attitude of the Church in regard to the constituent elements of these religions: "The Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these
religions. She looks with sincere respect upon those ways of conduct and of life, those rules and teachings which, though differing in many particulars from what she holds and sets forth, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. However, she proclaims and must ever proclaim Christ, `the way, the truth and the life' (John 14:6), in whom men find the fullness of religious life, and in whom God has reconciled all things to himself' (Ibid. 2; cf. Ad Gentes, 16). It would therefore seem useful to examine briefly each of these elements, observing how the greater or lesser importance of one element in relation to the others helps to give a religion its own character, its particular physiognomy, in the setting of the religious phenomenology of mankind.
4. The Myth
The myth is a universal phenomenon of the human race, especially in the archaic and primordial conditions of life, and it permeates all religions to a greater or lesser degree. It has its roots in the very psyche of man and it expresses in a pre-scientific and figurative form man's principal intuitions concerning the other world, the origin and meaning of life and of the ego, concerning life, love
and death. There is certainly some truth in the opinion which attributes the birth of myths to the first movements of the principle of causality in the religious domain, and we must also give serious
consideration to depth psychology (C. Jung) according to which many myths have their roots in the collective unconscious of mankind (archetypes).
All is not yet clear as to the origin, content and meaning of myths in man's spiritual experience. Many researchers are actively occupied in analyses according to philological, psychological, ethnological and philosophical methods. Myths are generally characterized by a lack of logical coherence, and of systematic and scientific observation, by the cosmic, polytheistic and meta-historical nature of their plot and by a certain vital and soteriological aspect which links them with
worship and religious practices.
In order to find one's bearings in this forest it is important to distinguish the basic mythical theme from the subsequent mythological developments of the plot. The former ordinarily contains
the figuration of a fundamental human experience (for example, the quest for immortality), while the latter, on the contrary, are the fruit of a fantastic secondary elaboration which is often occasional and lacking in genuine spiritual content.
It is necessary to bear in mind that Christianity has a structure which is radically different from that of the myth and in which every attempt at the de-mythologization of Christianity conflicts with the very words of the Apostles. The Apostles in fact, from the earliest days, declared "that they did not follow myths and interminable genealogies" but that they were witnesses of historical events (cf. 1 Tim. 1:4). As an intervention and revelation and of God in history it has nothing in common with the mythical products which pullulate in human soil. Although mythical traits are found at times in the Bible, reminiscent of the cultural environment of the Near East, they are profoundly transformed and amount to mere modes of expression, to purely formal categories or to popular versions of things which are essentially true. Nevertheless, the Church pays attention to the myths
of the various nations. Indeed, one can perhaps recognize in them the most archaic expression of the "natural" knowledge of God and of the natural law, and their origin, like that of religious questions as a whole, can therefore be supposed to lie in the intervention of a grace, despite the mental and moral weaknesses and perversions of man which are the consequence of sin.
The position assumed by the Fathers is particularly significant in this respect. While they rejected mythology as a diabolical temptation, a good many of them took pains to demonstrate the presence of seeds and traces of truth in the myth. In the midst of a sequence of figures and images the myths can contain and express essential aspirations of the human heart and can presage in an obscure way the response to them through the Incarnation. Thus it is that the classical myths of Ulysses, Mithras, Orpheus and many others were interpreted in various ways in a Christian sense. Man's desire to escape from the powers of adversity and to find salvation, which is expressed in the myths by images in an incomprehensible manner, finds a response in Christ and in His grace.
5. Symbolism and "Idolatry"
Symbolism is intimately linked with the myth in every religion and this is another capital and universal element on which modern scientific research is at work. In the religious mentality and
psychology of the East in particular it is quite a primary element. A fundamental dichotomy characterizes the universe. On the one hand are perceptible things which are symbols, while on the other are divine things which are symbolized. Thus we have confirmation of the intuition of the poet who saw in the universe "forests of symbols."(2) Consequently, anyone who wishes to face up to the religiousness of men and to interpret it, requires a certain initiation in this domain.
Great attention must be paid to the delicate phenomenon called idolatry. Is it not generally agreed, in current terminology that this is the pre-eminent sign of the illegality of a religion? In order to appreciate this point in its proper light it is necessary to refer to what has been said of the myth. Spontaneous and lawful in the sphere of natural religion, the myth is the symbolical representation of the divine and hence the representation of this myth by an image ought also to be permissible, even though it be only an imperfect expression of it. The image can then be the expression also of the search for and partial discovery of the divine on the part of man, and
can consequently be, in a certain sense, the object of veneration. "It is only when a man loses sight of the fact that the idol is just a representative figure that the problem of deficiency in the worship of images arises, that is to say, idolatry. But as long as the believer continues to bear in mind that the idol is merely an image of God and not God Himself, his worship appertains to lawful religion even when the image receives in a vicarious manner divine honors" (G. Oberhammer). Neither is ancestor-worship nor the veneration of the dead in itself idolatry.
But what is to be said of the cases in which the image is considered to be endowed with this "vital force," this mysterious and sacred power which is often believed to be concentrated in the
divinity? Even in such cases, worship is not directed to the image, but to the divinity, in so far as it is known. We can see here an imperfect fulfillment of the desire of the religious man to find himself
in the presence of God, an aspiration which appears frequently in the Psalms and which finds its divine response in the Christian mystery of the Eucharist.
6. The Rite and Magic
In the religious life of mankind, the rite is closely linked with the myth, not alone in that which concerns its origins but in the symbolical language of the rite itself. It is considered as a sacred
action of former times whose elements are unalterable but which is efficacious and salutary at the present time. Scholars differ as to the relationship existing between the myth and the rite, but it is an
undoubted fact that as far as primitive, rural, popular (not philosophical) forms of religion are concerned, the rite serves as a representation and an updated expression of the myth. The primitive
mythical events which took place in the past, "in the beginning," are re-enacted in the rite, in seasonal ceremonies or particular circumstances and they communicate their efficacy to those who
assist, bringing them into spiritual contact with the super-human and meta-historical world of the divine.
It is natural for the Christian to see in this religious structure a certain foreshadowing, obscure but expressive, of the Christian paschal mystery continually renewed and present in worship which is
not merely a commemorative repetition of past things (the event of salvation), but the insertion of the very gift of salvation into the rhythm of time, for the regeneration and spiritual growth of humanity and its recapitulation in Christ. In this way the Christian perspective differs radically from the mythical one for the latter is stationary in a cyclic period in which one is obliged to accept nature and its movements, whereas the Christian looks upon the saving past in order to achieve
his progress in Christ, pressing onwards towards the radiant plenitude of the parousia.
There is also a certain connection between magic and worship and the rite, but magic is distinguished from these by its characteristic spirit and ends. It is the appanage "of men who know
and who can" and propose to employ for the utility of an individual or of all, the "vital force" which is the expression of God and is inherent in the cosmos. At its best, it aims at utilizing the divine power inherent in the things which God has given to men. On this "empirical" level it is merely a form of popular science which is not without value. A ritual element (rites and practices accompanied by precise formulae, etc.) which savors of superstition is ordinarily added to the empirical elements. But it happens fairly frequently that a really religious element of submission and abandonment to God is also added. It will therefore be necessary to examine all the elements
and all the circumstances.
Hence, magic as such is not necessarily irreligious, but can easily become so in its means and its ends, by turning against the forces of life (forces of God) or by devoting itself to dark machinations with harmful or antisocial intentions.
7. Religious Philosophy
In the more important religions, philosophy usually develops on the basis of the myth, so much so that myth and philosophical speculation are interwoven and sustain each other. On the whole,
what can be observed in the pre-Socratic philosophers of the West seems to be a general phenomenon of religious phenomenology. The myth, as highly symbolic language, is of its very nature polyvalent and therefore calls for conceptual precision. Hence each religion has the faculty of precise self-expression, self-determination, continual expansion in new and even contradictory concepts, but always along the lines of a certain traditional continuity.
This is particularly true of Asia, as also of the mystical philosophy of shi-ite (Ismaelite) Islamism and that of Persia. It is not possible to attempt the exegesis of the myth (and this holds good also in the case of the "holy books" which often contain these myths) without bearing in mind the philosophical interpretation and explanation which accompanies them. For example, anyone who were to start from the basis of mythical statements regarding God the Creator or Transformer of the universe and at once to find doctrinal analogies with Christianity, would expose himself to the danger of erroneous interpretation. Hence, it is necessary to be circumspect in adopting, for example, the concept and the biblical term "creation" when interpreting Indian texts. To mention a case in point, in the system of Nyaya-vaisesika, "the Lord" (isvarah) is the cause which brings
together the constituent elements of the universe (souls, atoms, time, space) thus giving origin to the world and establishing in it the law of retribution (karma) of good and evil actions. According to the
immanent metaphysics of this concept, and likewise according to the doctrine of the school, God is no more than an element in the mechanism of the world, an immanent principle which ensures birth
and evolution in it, and can in no way be related to the transcendent Being of Christian theology.
But philosophy is not confined to connection with the myth where a vision of the world is concerned. It is also to be found at the level of practical living in the form of popular wisdom, often expressed in proverbs and axioms or in intuitions concerning life and death, man and his experiences, the present world and the hereafter. This philosophy is no more than common sense, the expression of a sound realism, which often affords a meeting-place on the human plane of wisdom. Thus, at the time of the New Testament, the Apostles and preachers of the Gospel were able to avail themselves of the patrimony of "popular philosophy." Actually the first and perhaps the sole foundation which is necessarily presupposed in meeting and dialogue between the defenders of totally different religious systems, is a simple philosophy which is even unaware of
itself, a philosophy of existence which recognizes in things, in the language and basic indications of knowledge and conscience their immediate and universal value.
Certain great religions express their fundamental intuitions in dogmatic formulae which explain and state them precisely, bringing them down to the level of the simple believer to serve as the rallying point and the blazon of each religion (this is above all true of Islam). Naturally, in these dogmatic formulae the ambiguity of the fundamental intuitions is to be found once more. It will be well to distinguish in the dogmatic whole of any given religion between that which can be formally in opposition to the Christian faith (for example, in Islam God is not triune, Jesus is not the Son of God) and that which is fundamentally in agreement with it (there is but one God). In the latter case it will moreover be well to distinguish between the dogmatic formulation proper to the non-Christian religion which is warped by its inclusion in a non-Christian synthesis (e.g., the unity of God excluding the Trinity, or the divine transcendency excluding the personal immanence of God in the world) and the Christian formulation of this same truth. It will be found that while being
fundamentally valid in the non-Christian religion, this truth has its full meaning and its exact formulation in Christianity alone (God is one and triune, transcendent and immanent, etc.). It is necessary therefore to take into account the fundamentally genuine meaning of non-Christian dogmas or rather of certain among them, in order to extricate it and emphasize it in the dialogue between the various religions.
9. Sacrifice and Prayer
Sacrifice is traditionally united to religion and to the various existing religions, but its external forms and its material and spiritual content vary to such an extent that it is impossible to give a univocal definition of it. One of its fundamental elements is symbolic action by which man establishes a relationship with the divine and the realm of divinity. Hence the need of seeking to discern in each case the interior meaning of the sacrificial act, which may range from homage to magic, from impetration to expiation, from the "do ut des" to appeasement. In general, a double divergent tendency is to be noted in the sphere of sacrifice. On the one hand there is a tendency to
increase the efficacy of the rite to the point at which it becomes coercive magic, whereas on the other hand there is a tendency toward spiritualization, toward a more and more symbolic offering
(flowers, first fruits) which prevails over all other ethico-personal aspects of sacrifice even to the point of complete elimination of the material aspect.
The Christian, who considers as the archetype the sacrificial oblation of Christ, a personal act of submission and love, evidently favors the tendency "to present our bodies as a sacrifice, living, holy, pleasing to God" (Rom. 12:1), but he also appreciates the symbolic offering of perceptible things, as a proof of his interior sentiment and in recognition of God's sovereign dominion over the world. Moreover, he unites indissolubly the aspect of the gift to God with that of donation to his neighbor. According to his theology, every sacrificial act of the various religions is a prelude and a prefiguring of the saving sacrifice of Christ (St. Thomas, Sent. III, dist. 25, q. 2, art. 2, sol 2; St. Bonaventure, Sent. III, dist. 25, art. 1, q. 2, ad 3).
Even more universal than sacrifice is prayer, the pre-eminent act in every religion, of which it presents every form, every degree, the sentiments, the sublime elevations as well as the degenerations. As a phenomenon of communication and of interpersonal relations, it tends of its nature to open up and to abandon itself to the divine "as if it were personal"; and this occurs even in cases where philosophical speculation qualifies as impersonal the object of religion; even in cases of polytheism it interpellates this object "as if it were the only one" and close at hand.
In this sense the prayer of non-Christians is always to be encouraged by the Christian whose norm lies in St. Paul's words "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). The value of interior prayer is
to be stressed rather than the prayer rites which are usually bound up with the social conditioning of the religion concerned and thus lend themselves less to dialogue. On the contrary, it is in the attitude of interior prayer, of response to God's interior call, that all believers can meet, apart from the rites proper to their own religion, but without repudiating these, in shared fidelity to the truth.
10. Morals and Natural Law
Religion has a repercussion everywhere upon morals which it enlivens, sustains and at times even enforces by penalty. Thus each of the great religions has spread abroad in the world a characteristic
moral ideal. The Declaration on the Non-Christian Religions places favorable stress upon the moral values which have been spread by the great religions. Self-discipline and recollection are recommended by Hinduism; Buddhism teaches detachment, self-donation and compassion for others, and Buddhist piety in China has embraced the sentiment of order and harmony codified by Confucius. Islamism, taking up and reinforcing a theme already fundamental in the religion of Israel, places the entire moral life under the sign of submission of the servant to the divine precepts. Christianity accepts all these values and unifies them in the supreme precept of love (agape),foundation and substance of the entire moral law: "All that you wish men to do to you, even so do you also to them" (Matt.7: 12).
It is important to observe in this context that according to Judaeo- Christian tradition the divine and revealed law of the love of neighbor, without which there is no salvation (cf. Matt. 5:43; 7:12; 22:40; 25:40; Rom. 13:9-10; Gal.5:14; Lev. 19:18; Tob.4:16; Mishna Shabath 31a [Hillel]), is no more than the recollection, the explicit rendering and the supernaturally revealed plenitude of the natural law which is engraved in the hearts of all men and is not completely obscured despite certain aberrations. By this law each individual is invited "not to do to others that which he would not wish others to do to him" (St. Augustine, En. in ps. 57, 1 [PL 35, 673]; ep. 157, 15 [PL
33, 681]; Gratien, Conc. Discord. can., dist. 1 [PL 187, 21]; St. Albert the Great, de bono [op. omnia, ed. Colon. 1951, t. 28, p. 263, 26-34]; St. Thomas I, 2ae, q. 94, art.4,ad 1;q.99, art.2ad2).
For this reason, the Christian who has in his hands the liber scripturae, will find it relatively easy to note the divine indications already contained in the liber naturae and will rejoice to find the
elements of the "golden rule" of love of neighbor in every people.
11. Self-Discipline, Contemplation and Mystical Life
In all the great religions, but especially in Hinduism and Buddhism,(3) the pursuit of moral perfection often leads to the adoption of ascetical practices of detachment and separation from
the things of the world and of ordinary life. Here are to be found some fundamental intuitions upon the caducity and ambivalence of the things of this world, some statements analogous to those of the
sapiential books of the Old Testament, intuitions which are the fruit of natural reason, but can actually be helped and sustained by God's grace.
Worthy of particular attention is the practice of meditation exercised as interior recollection, the tenacious effort at elimination and centripetal movement, toward solitary enstase and the ultimate
experience of the Absolute and Infinite (Kaivalya, satori, nirvana) pursued with the natural powers of the individual concerned. The Christian deeply appreciates this effort and the very techniques
employed (similar to those of Christian ascetical tradition: fasting, silence, immobility, etc.) which aim at detachment from things perceptible to the senses and at the pursuit of the interior life, but he
tries to get beyond his own limited horizon and to open up to interpersonal communion with God and his neighbor.
The pursuit of the Absolute by mortification, meditation and prayer, with an increasing interior purification and simplification of the acts of the soul, even in the case of non-Christians can mount up to forms and experiences ordinarily designated by the term mystique. This phenomenon is the object of much study in our times and various judgments have been pronounced upon it. At all events we must reject the opinion which sees in mystical experience the origin of the various religions or believers that it can discover in this their superior and transcendental unity. Equally unfounded is the antithesis between prophetic (theistic) religion and mystical religion (pantheism) since mystical experience and mysticism are to be found in varying degrees in all the non-Christian religions. At best it is a question of experience occurring unexpectedly in the innermost depths of the spirit, of beatifying union with the superempirical Principle of all reality.
What judgment is a Christian to form in this regard? Without pretending to say the last word on the subject and while being fully respectful of the mystery of the human spirit and of the divine action, we ought to avoid the two extremes, namely, that of condemning all non-Christian mystical experience as illusion, or else of seeing it everywhere and considering it to be a fully Christian phenomenon.
To the Christian, mystical life is union with God in Three Divine Persons, realized in Jesus Christ. Consequently, as Father de Lubac observes, "it is incapable of being realized without a supernatural grace which is normally found in the Church and the normal conditions of which are the life of faith and the sacraments" (La Mystique et les Mystiques, p. 16). But neither must it be forgotten, continues Father de Lubac "that the Word made flesh is none other than the one who enlightens all men" (p. 34).
In other words, since human nature is made in the image of God and is called to God from the depths of its being, it can be said that the mystical aspiration is inherent in human nature and that
everything leads to the belief that God lavishes His grace on those who seek Him. In such cases one may speak of true "mystical" experience, even though the quality of analogy which links these
experiences with those of Christian saints must be emphasized. The expression, "natural mystical life" can be used to point out that these experiences rest on a human possibility by reason of the spiritual structure of man, but without excluding, obviously, a particular grace of God. "Every man," writes Father de Lubac, "is made in the image of God. If every man's reason can, in theory, attain to a certain knowledge of God's existence, although not without the risk of a medley of wrong ideas, it is perhaps admissible to think that every man in the depths of his soul is capable in certain exceptional circumstances of experiencing something of the divine presence, even if reason has not played its role beforehand, even if it is unable to identify the reality which has made itself felt" (p. 37-38).
But it is difficult from the point of view of empirico-descriptive observation to render with certainty an account of the presence and authenticity of such phenomena. It will perhaps be possible in certain cases to distinguish that which depends on "natural mystical life" (intuition and fruition of one's own existence) and on "supernatural mystical life," (intuition and fruition of God as Absolute and distinct from the creature) (cf. the studies of 0. Lacombe on Hinduism and of L. Gardet on Moslem mystical life). Moreover, even in the case of the best Christians it is necessary to be circumspect and prudent as regards mystical life. It can perhaps be stated that if mystical life is direct experience of God, it can only be found where there is no possibility of its having for its object anything whatever other than God. Consequently, there should be no question of true mystical life in all the "visions" of mythical figures, since the influence of elements other than divine cannot be excluded therein. In such cases it is evident that what is experienced are merely imaginary forms of the being who appears in the myth but not God alone.
Another indication of real experience of God can be the consciousness that He cannot be grasped by the human spirit. Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, St. Bernard and St. John of the Cross all agree on this point. "Anyone who has seen God and understands what he has seen, has not seen" (St. Maximus, Confessor). Besides, it is necessary to distinguish carefully between experience itself
which is "beyond" and its exterior expression which is "something else," and can be partial, full of imagery, at all events inadequate.
It is necessary, finally, to take into account the environment, the circumstances and the practical effects of such spiritual experiences.
THOSE CONCERNED IN DIALOGUE
Our aim is to present the true countenance of the Church. In the picture we present of it we must also integrate its composite nature which has room for all talents and utilizes in its work the universality of its members. St. Paul likes to show it to us as an organic, living body, to the progress and smooth running of which each and all of the members contribute in their own sphere. There is not a single Christian who has not received a particular talent destined for the well-being of the whole. The laity of every class and of both sexes should not be excluded from this participation in the well-being of the whole, but ought on the contrary to have an ample place where he or she is irreplaceable. This has become still more evident since Vatican Council II and recent declarations of the Sovereign Pontiffs, especially His Holiness Pope Paul VI.
The bishop has his part to play in governing the Church and promoting its progress; every priest, whether a missionary or not, should share in the task of recalling to the one fold those who have
been dispersed in various places; important and irreplaceable is the task of the religious of either sex, but no less essential is the mission of the layman, as was clearly stressed by the Second Vatican
Council. By his mode of life, his social status, his relations with others; his specialization in one branch or another of learning or of the arts, he finds openings for an approach to non-Christians where the way is barred to all other interlocutors of dialogue. His presence is unhampered by a soutane or a religious habit.
The recent convert and the catechumen have openings and resources which are exclusively their own, particularly the possibility of forming a bridge between the religious milieu which was formerly theirs and that toward which they are now moving. They are living at the present moment the program of that drama toward which all frank and sincere dialogue is directed.
Thanks to the laity in particular, the family, the shop, the professional, political or cultural group affords occasion for spontaneous and constant dialogue.
If in some countries in which Christianity has been developing for a century or more, inquiries continue to reveal deep ignorance of what it means to be a Christian, the reason is the scarcity of lay
people who are fulfilling their part by informing their fellow citizens, their colleagues and companions in the course of days and years of contact.
Obviously they must present an authentic picture of the Church and it follows that they must know the Church according to the means at their disposal and must above all live up to the Christian
ideal, embodying it in all their actions, words and proceedings.
In his encyclical Ecclesiam Suam His Holiness Pope Paul VI pointed out this duty of example as a preliminary condition for dialogue. It has often recurred in the course of the Pope's allocutions
to various lay groups: "At certain times and in certain aspects the Church is neither beautiful nor splendid, neither meaningful not eloquent, because her children are not exemplary and do not live as true Christians. How accountable and how guilty, then, are the children of the Church who do not show forth her spirituality and who are not `signs' of Christ!" (general audience of Oct. 9; L'Oss.
Rom., Oct. 10, 1966).
In certain mission lands where other means of making the Church known are greatly lacking, this task devolves almost entirely upon the laity. In the eyes of the non-Christian who mixes with them and observes them, they are the Church itself and the value of the Church is judged by the worth of these laymen. The very fact of living side by side therefore represents either an opening for dialogue or an occasion for dislike of everything bearing the Christian name.
The same can be said of the case where non-Christians are living in Christian countries, which is becoming more and more frequent in our times. Numerous non-Christians live side by side with Catholic students or Catholic companions in shop and office, etc. If they are aware that these companions are Christians, to them they represent the Church of which these non-Christians have heard tell but which they do not yet know. Everything which they observe in their companions, either good or evil, will be for them an argument for or against the Church. They will try to see on every occasion how the faith of these Christians influences their life and conduct. If the result is favorable, as relations are not subjected to any constraint but are rather facilitated by community of life and common problems, there will be a spontaneous beginning of dialogue.
The action of the isolated layman runs the risk of being clumsy and too feeble. If he belongs to a Catholic Action movement, rendered sensitive to the problem of the non-Christian, he will find
himself helped in this respect. He will receive advice and directives and will submit the problems which arise. In addition, these movements have greater means at their disposal for placing the non-
Christian in the desired environment and rendering him the services he requires.
On the role of women, we can do no better than to quote the words of the council Fathers at the close of the council sessions: "The hour is coming, has come in fact, when the vocation of
woman is being accomplished in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires an influence in the world, an effect, a power never achieved up to the present time. That is why in this period when the
world is experiencing such a profound transformation, women who are steeped in the spirit of the Gospel can be of such enormous help in preventing mankind from falling.... Women, you who know how to make the truth, tender, sweet and accessible, apply yourselves to the work of bringing the spirit of the Council into institutions, schools, homes and daily life."(4)
These qualities of sweetness and accessibility are particularly precious in the work of dialogue and contacts. It is a task which falls to a greater extent within the feminine milieu. As nurses, family or social workers, her presence is everywhere desired and her influence profound.
It will be even easier and more efficacious if women, instead of being isolated, enter into those associations which, while not necessarily religious, bring advice and strength.(5)
In the body which is the Church, a head is certainly required (this head is Christ and his Vicar on earth, the Roman Pontiff), as well as a hierarchy of divine right. As far as the action of the members is concerned, there is less question of subordination than of specialization. As St. Paul says: "God had set the members, each of them, in the body as he willed. Now if they were all one member,
where would the body be? But as it is, there are indeed many members, yet but one body" (1 Cor. 12:18-20).
Dialogue with non-Christians is an art which calls for wide-awake psychology, for knowledge and tact, but especially for enthusiasm and the warmth of charity. But since charity alone cannot make up for the lack of the rest, if one does not wish to tempt God the preparation must be all the more thorough according as the task undertaken is more extensive or more delicate.
Moreover, since the two impelling forces, the two rules which we intend to follow are faith and charity, a double preparation must be foreseen.
Faith cannot provide us with the desired enthusiasm if we are lacking in clear knowledge of and high esteem for the truths it teaches us, if we are unaware of the privilege of being instructed
concerning God and ourselves by God Himself, instead of owing this knowledge to the laborious, uncertain and imperfect research of man, if we are unaware of the advantage of grace and the
sacraments and the guidance of an organized and powerful body, the Church, instituted by Jesus Christ and dispenser of His infinite merits.
This knowledge must not remain a dead faith. It must pass into our lives and become a joyful experience, an experience of deep happiness, too great to be contained and which consequently seeks to pour itself out all around us. Moreover, it is by living one's faith that one gives an example of it, the indispensable starting point for dialogue.
While it impels us to communicate the gift freely bestowed on us by God, the happiness of possessing the faith will put us on our guard to defend it against the dangers which it may encounter in the event of dialogue. Here again preparation by means of study is necessary.
The more frank and free the dialogue becomes, the more will we be faced with questions, the more will we meet with objections, to which the answer will not be easy. Father Cosme de Torres, the first companion of St. Francis Xavier in Japan, wrote to his superiors that difficulties had been proposed to him to which neither Scotus nor St. Thomas gave him the answer. This goes to show that no matter how ample the religious training of laity in particular, they must always be ready to recognize their limitations and have recourse to those who are competent rather than give an inaccurate answer.
To this knowledge and practice of one's own faith must be added a sufficient idea of the religion of those with whom one engages in dialogue.
First of all, it must be realized that everything in these religions is not bad, everything in them is not false, everything in them is not immoral, and that things are to be found in them which are very
close to what we find in Christianity. We will not be astonished when we recall that God is the Creator of all men, that He has given them all the same human nature and has engraved in their hearts His imprint and His law which impels them to seek Him, while for His part He "enlightens every man who comes into the world" (John 1:9). If some are scandalized to see the resemblance between various religions and draw the conclusion that one is as good as another, it will be shown on the contrary how well adapted our religion is to our nature although it surpasses and enriches it in an infinite manner. These resemblances will serve as stepping-stones arranged by God for the task to be undertaken.
`Ad hoc' Method
The direct study of a given religion will receive special attention. But the two aspects of the training in question presuppose, in each country or in each group of countries having an identical religion, the elaboration of a specially adapted method, as is moreover recommended in the constitution "Ad Gentes." It is true that this document is intended for priests, but it is more or less valid for all those who engage in dialogue: "Priestly training should have an eye to the pastoral needs of a given region. The students should learn the history, aim and method of the Church's missionary activity, and the special social, economic and cultural conditions of their own people. Let them be educated in the ecumenical spirit and duly prepared for fraternal dialogue with non-Christians. All these objectives require that seminarians pursue their priestly studies, as far as possible, while associating and living together with their own people."
Again, "if this goal is to be achieved, theological investigation must necessarily be stirred up in each major socio-cultural area, as it is called. In this way, under the light of the tradition of the universal Church, a fresh scrutiny will be brought to bear on the deeds and words which God has made known, which have been consigned to Sacred Scripture and which have been unfolded by the Church Fathers and the teaching authority of the Church.
"Thus it will be more clearly seen in what ways faith can seek for understanding in the philosophy and wisdom of these peoples. A better view will be gained of how their customs, outlook on life and social order can be reconciled with the manner of living taught by divine revelation. As a result, avenues will be opened for a more profound adaptation in the whole area of Christian life" (Ad Gentes, 22).
This study of the various religions must not be a purely theoretical one, as in the case of scholars in this field. This science only interests us as a means toward understanding men and finding the
paths which lead to their hearts. In this sense we ought not to despise the popular beliefs which the learned ones look upon as heretical and superstitious. Very often there is to be found here a
requital of human nature, naturally religious and even naturally Christian, which seeks spontaneously to rediscover its own paths, partially hindered by the doctrine of the learned. Frequently one finds here impulses of love, adoration and fervor which are lacking elsewhere and which will be a help to us.
Charity already inspires our preparation in faith and it will guide us especially in our actual contacts. Caritas facit similem sibi. It will impel us toward adaptation everywhere this is possible and useful. Everywhere possible, for integrity of faith and the moral law must be respected. In all that is useful, because adaptation would be detrimental if it were to result in identification, in which case we would have nothing further to give. We must defend integrally our own contribution in order to complete what is possessed by the other party.
1. Adaptation of manners. It is difficult to live with people whose manners are too different from our own, especially when there is a repercussion on the soul. This is particularly the case where social propriety and conventions are concerned. Certainly people do not expect us to dress as they do, at least as a general rule, but there are rules of behavior which cannot be violated without hurting others, like a sign of contempt or a lack of politeness.(6) For example, to enter a house wearing one's shoes where the people of the household go barefoot out of propriety or delicacy, or to turn one's back to those in the house who demand a sign of respect, etc. It is therefore necessary to be acquainted with customs and taboos and then to conform to them, even where this is inconvenient or embarrassing, or rather to be sufficiently charitable as to overlook the inconvenience to the point of no longer being troubled by it.
We would be lacking in charity and understanding if we were to consider ourselves above such trifles as if we knew better and had the right to demand freedom to follow our own manner of behaving. All these conventions are justified, but it is not normal that a foreigner pretend to lay down the law for the people of the country, in defiance of established customs. It is still less normal for one who should bear within him the charity of Christ to show so little charity and such self-sufficiency.
2. In the manner of thinking and the philosophy proper to the place. The council decisions have made it a duty to take care of this in the training of clerical students and hence also in those who wish to play a prominent part in the work of mutual understanding. The decree "Optatam Totius" itself, which is addressed to priests in general without distinction as to country, wishes philosophy to be taught in such a way as to render students "conversant with contemporary philosophical investigations, especially those exercising special influence in their own country....in this way students will be properly prepared for dialogue with the men of their own day" (15). If this applies to all, it is more than ever the case in non-Christian lands. In a word, people who devote themselves to dialogue must be able to present by means of familiar words, images and concepts the philosophical or theological ideas acquired in a different system. This cannot be done without some initial difficulty or without assiduous practice under the leadership of an expert in this field.
Care must also be taken to avoid the danger of considering as definitive the adaptation which has been laboriously brought about. Thought and culture are in constant evolution and the rhythm of this evolution has today reached a crescendo hitherto unequaled. To stand still is to run the risk of being surprised or outstripped by events. Several times in the course of her history, especially her
missionary history, the Church has been faced with critical situations because the cry "Custos quid de nocte?" had not been heard in time.(7)
3. An Objection. When one speaks of adaptation in non-Christian countries which are developing rapidly, one will always find some who object. They fear that desirable progress will be slowed up by an old-fashioned respect for ancient customs. Besides, they say, the people have no wish to see us aping more or less awkwardly their actions and gestures, but are even embarrassed by this. In certain domains this may be true, and it is well to bear it in mind, but it is not invariably the case. There is nobody who cannot quote a typical case of violation of a custom or ignorance of a taboo, with consequent calling into question of a position already gained. Nobody dreams of denying or slowing down evolution in that which is good, but rather of following it in order the better to direct it, for change does not always signify progress.
The conciliar decree "Ad Gentes" recalls this fact when it tells priests that "they should, at the same time, look to the profound changes which are taking place among nations. They should exert
themselves lest modern man...become a stranger to things divine. Rather, let them awaken in him a fiercer yearning for that truth and charity which God has revealed''(11).
THE DUTY OF BEARING WITNESS
Concerning the missionary duty of the laity, "Ad Gentes" states that "Laymen cooperate in the Church's work of evangelization and as witnesses...they share in her saving mission" (41). This is true not alone in missionary work, nor of the laity alone. To bear witness is a duty of all who engage in dialogue.
In the latter case, moreover, there is an ineluctable fact which renders them witnesses even against their will, if need be. Living under the eyes of non-Christians, they represent the Church to
these. Our brethren in other religions nearly always have a vague idea that Christianity imposes a severe moral code and they observe us with the same critical gaze, with the same rigor, which atheists apply to the priest, the religious or even to any devout person. St. Paul already warned the Christians of his day that they were a spectacle to men (1 Cor. 4:9). Now, it is impossible to bear Christian witness as we ought unless the Christian life has become something habitual to us and almost spontaneous. At all events, failing this acquired spontaneity, we are bound to make up for it by exercising a continual watchfulness over ourselves.
1. A Witness of Faith
We must first of all appear in the eyes of all as persons sincerely convinced of the truths of our faith and consequently we must live according to our faith. We must be men of prayer who seek after God, mindful of the respect due to the true God. This attitude of respect is also expected in regard to everything sacred, in regard to religion in general, that of others as well as our own. Religion, whatever it may be, is always the noblest effort of man. To joke about other people's faith, or to ridicule their rites, lowers us in their eyes.
2. A Witness of Integral Conduct
If other religions, especially those of the Far East, do not always attach great importance to dogma, on the contrary they attribute capital importance to morals. One who seeks religion appears more particularly anxious to find a rule of life which will allow him to ascend to a higher moral level. He makes his own the words of Confucius: "Heaven has neither sound nor smell; let us therefore avoid dealing with what is above our intellect and merely be watchful to follow the will of heaven which is engraved in our nature as men."
To judge as to whether Christianity is this rule which they anxiously seek, they will endeavor to see it in practice in our lives, in accordance, moreover, with the words of Jesus: "By their fruits you
will know them" (Matt 7:20). Here too our conduct must bear witness and must correspond to the sublimity of our ideal.
3. A Witness of Detachment
The human moral law, at least in its theoretical precepts, is more or less the same in one religion and another. The essential difference in the pursuit of good and of virtue is that in the human religions this tendency is anthropocentric, aiming essentially at culture, at the elevation of man, and on the other hand seeking to achieve its goal through human effort and human resources. With us, on the contrary, all is centered in Christ. From Him proceeds the law, but a law which is none other than the one which He has imprinted in our nature. This law also undoubtedly causes us to grow and in some way divinizes us. But the principal and ultimate aim of our observance does not lie in this. We act for God and for His glory, and all the rest is merely a corollary. Likewise, we apply all our strength and all our attention to this fidelity to the law, but always admitting that it is God who produces within us both the will and the performance (cf. Phil. 2:13) and that without His help our efforts, willed by Him, would be vain.
This difference must appear in the eyes of others. We should manifest it in the practice of detachment, by giving ourselves to others, more especially to the poor. If we concern ourselves about relieving the miseries of this world, illiteracy, hunger, war and so forth; if we seek to raise the level of living, all this nevertheless remains in the realm of means and does not constitute an ultimate end. People need security in order to be able to think of God and of the great problems of life. For this reason in assisting others to achieve a certain ease, we ourselves must continue the witness of detachment and love of poverty, being truly concerned for the things of the future life alone and for that which leads to it.
This is all the more necessary in view of the fact that in certain religions such as Hinduism, for example, and Buddhism in certain countries, the ascetics are very rigid in their practice of this
detachment, this contempt for bodily things in order to set their souls free.
Consequently, if our witness is to be effective, it must be marked at the same time by these two characteristics: 1. a real donation of self for the good of men and independently of any notion of even spiritual gain in the person of the other; 2. a donation, however, which does not reveal on the part of the donor a purely materialistic ideal, but draws its inspiration from religion, love of God and love of men for God's sake.
4. Witness of Charity and Forgiveness
This witness is certainly rendered by the works of charity, the gift of our time and of our person, but it is also shown forth by union among all. It was this union among the early Christians which edified those who beheld it and obtained sympathy for a doctrine capable of achieving such a living understanding among men of all classes and all nations.
This union and understanding must not be confined to our own immediate circle and our co-religionists. It must aim at embracing all men. To begin with, there must be greater union among Christians themselves. The division of Christians is a source of scandal to non-Christians. Although it does not entirely depend upon us to remedy this, we can and must make every effort to diminish it and render it less evident. Criticism, raillery, hard words, demonstrations of joy when others fail, all this must be absolutely excluded. On the contrary, we must assume a deferent attitude toward our Christian brethren, collaborate with them to the best of our ability while awaiting the restoration of unity which will remove the barriers which cannot today be ignored. Moreover, since circumstances differ from place to place and from person to person, all activity in this field must follow the rules laid down by the Ordinary.
Even in countries where persecution reigns, we must not manifest hard feelings, but be ready to pardon and to forget, according to the example given us by the Master in His life and upon the Cross.
Peace must always reign in our hearts as we busy ourselves in good works.
5. Witness of Joy and Happiness
Sincere detachment and the preservation of peace in our hearts in all circumstances will enable us to render the witness of joy, which is perhaps one of the most valuable and the most efficacious. It is not without reason that this joy is frequently recommended in the Gospel. God wishes to be served with joy. "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7). Holy Scripture reminds us of the reasons for joy on our part: first of all, the happiness of believing: "believing you exult with a joy unspeakable" (1 Pet. 1:9); the prospect of heaven; "rejoice and exult, because your reward is great in heaven" (Matt. 5:12). Joy even under persecution, because it is the seed of victory: "Blessed
are you when men reproach you, and persecute you...for my sake" (Matt. 5:11).
Other religions also seek happiness in one way or another, for after all it is happiness which they intend to bestow, since it is happiness that men are seeking. Some of them think to find it in festivals and dances, but when the excitement has subsided it is easy to see a veil of sadness descend on the faces of the revelers. But what we announce is the one good tidings capable of being a perpetual cause of joy to all men. If we therefore understand our faith and make it a living one, this joy which is the fruit of true peace will shine forth in us and will strike those among whom we live.
In order to bear witness in this way, we must enter into the mentality which Jesus asked of His disciples. One day when they had been received with hostility, they asked Jesus to bid fire come
down from heaven and consume these obdurate men, but they received this reply: "You do not know of what manner of spirit you are" (Luke 9:55). We must therefore study this point in order to make it our own.
1. A versatile and frank spirit. Jesus has told us that there are many and various mansions in His Father's house (John 14:2). Hence we must not attempt to render uniform or to standardize what
God has willed to be various and complementary in order to meet the needs and capacities of all men of every nation and every race. This respect for God's plan in each individual, which is essential in the direction of Christian souls, is even more so when there is question of very different religions and cultures. We must therefore study each people with interest and with scrupulous attention in order to discover their providential path to God and follow this faithfully no matter how strange it may appear in our eyes.
2. A spirit of humility. Humility is already required, as has been said, in order to renounce our own views and also in the guidance of souls. An excess of confidence in ourselves fixes us rigidly in a single method, our own, and creates an obstacle to God's dealings with us, of which it is said: "In all thy dealings with us, thou hast right on thy side" (Dan. 3:27).
But there is more to it than this. It is a sense of humility which counteracts in us the natural tendency to consider ourselves superior because we alone possess revelation and certitude, while others are groping their way in the dark. Humility, which is truth, shows us all men as brothers, all of them created by God, all of them equally loved by Him, destined by Him for eternal life. We know that on the Day of Judgment publicans and sinners will pass before the children of the kingdom and the Ninivites will have the right to condemn our generation. The benefit of truth and of the faith is a gratuitous gift and we have received it in order that we may share it with others. If
this true and heartfelt humility does not become natural to us and does not inform all our words, deeds and reactions, we obstruct God's work and sin against men.
3. A spirit of appreciation and esteem. There is good in all men and there is also some good in every religion, since it is human and everything human preserves the original divine imprint. In order to be aware of this, we must accustom ourselves to looking toward what is luminous, beautiful, noble and great instead of turning instinctively to what is base and ugly. Many sublime examples of human virtue leap into view when one is looking out for them, examples which are all
the more meritorious since they are the deeds of people who have not the spiritual helps which we ourselves possess in such abundance.
In its Declaration on the Attitude of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, the Second Vatican Council has pointed out some of the merits of each of the principal religions, the zeal of the Hindus in scrutinizing the mystery of God by meditation, in Buddhism the recognition of the vanity of this world, in Islamism adoration of the one God and total submission to His will, and in all religions in
general, the effort to furnish an answer to the anxieties of the human heart. His Holiness Pope Paul VI, on his part, points out the glimmerings of truth in these religions which the Church recognizes
If there is a point on which the other religions can serve as an example and stimulus to us, it is perhaps their zeal for the preservation of their spiritual heritage, a point on which we are often
too negligent. They are similar to those who take extreme pains to produce fire and watch attentively and lovingly over the live coals on their hearth, whereas when flames can be produced instantly by striking a match we are inclined to lose sight of the importance of fire.
4. A spirit of right discernment between good and evil, always recognizing what is good before condemning the evil. This is what St. Paul did in Athens when he praised in the Greeks their attention to honoring God before he blamed their idolatry. This is what Jesus did with even greater delicacy in speaking to the Samaritan woman: "Thou hast said well `I have no husband...,' in this thou hast spoken truly" (John 4:17-18). An unjustified condemnation causes rebellion in men's hearts and closes them to us. People are vividly aware of what is good in their heritage and they are unwilling to see it misrepresented. The person who rejects it is not acting fairly and his words will not be accepted.
5. A spirit of patience. We must know how to wait and to proceed by degrees. God has His hour which we must await. This is the lesson of the "you cannot bear them now" (John 16:12). But let it be observed that there is no question here of waiting inertly. It is a question of an active attention which is always ready to avail of a suitable opportunity, busy all the time in its preparation but never running ahead of it. The peoples of the world are in evolution as never before and the evidence of yesterday is questioned today. We must follow this current, studying its trends in order to rectify them if need be, all the time alert for the appearance of a sign which will allow the dialogue to take a further step forward.
6. A supernatural spirit. Perhaps we ought to have begun with this point but it is also a worthy ending. We must never forget that no matter what external form our activity may assume, we are God's laborers, working for His glory and for the good of men. Our mission is one of grace and if the Lord does not operate and build we are wasting our time.
We must also distinguish all the time between the divine and the human without ever unduly mixing these two elements. This will prevent us from intervening in what is outside our province.
It is not sufficient that we ourselves be convinced of the divine character of our work. We must convince others of this, leading them to true prayer, to real contact with God in order to obtain from
Him what is beyond our own powers as, for example, the gift of faith, or the remission of their sins. Examples are not lacking of people who are still fully attached to their own creed, but are pleased
to recite the Our Father and the Act of Contrition.
THE DOMAINS OF DIALOGUE
Anyone who is moved by faith and charity while maintaining supernatural prudence can nevertheless find continual occasions for some form of dialogue, but he will also be able to recognize that the time is not yet ripe, that the circumstances are not favorable for some other particular form. There are numerous possibilities for meeting and it is necessary to know them all so that none may be neglected at the right moment. Otherwise we should run the risk of failing to
utilize the opportunity which, according to God's plan, was to open up the way to further occasions. Beside a well Jesus asked for water from a Samaritan woman whose life was not an edifying one, and one thing led to another so that he came to touch her heart and to stir up the entire town. Hence we must not classify our ways of getting in contact as noble or less noble, but we must take
advantage always of the chances afforded us.
All peoples, all social classes, all professions do not react in the same way to our approach. We must become acquainted with the human foundations which God has placed in each culture and in
each man for the edifice of the Spirit. In reality we must begin from these foundations and not from our own when we set about building.
Moreover, each man, each nation comes to us with certain traumatisms either ancient or recent, due to historical wounds which we must recognize and to which healing balsam must be applied
before we go any further. The long conflicts between Christians and Moslems have caused rancor and bitterness to accumulate on both sides. Elsewhere the memory of humiliating or mercenary colonialism is with difficulty dissociated from the so-called religion followed by the former rulers.
In other places religious conflicts have led to the falsification of history and the propagation of prejudices through textbooks used in schools.
Occasional contact with Christians unworthy of the name has served to lower the value of our religion in the eyes of others and has given rise to strong antipathy on their part.
There is therefore room for a preliminary examination of historical facts, of past meetings with Christians, of the history of Gospel preaching past or present, of the methods followed and the reactions aroused.
Frequently the first thing to be done is to heal the wounds of the past by a silent example of true Christianity, by selfless charity, deep and sincere piety and an easy, humble and courteous approach.
The situation will vary considerably according to whether a given religion is in the minority in relation to the Christian population, or equally strong, or in the majority.
1. Ordinary Relationships in Social Life
Christians and non-Christians pass close to each other in the street. Instead of avoiding the others, or pretending not to see them, there are opportunities for showing courtesy, deference and
helpfulness. An aloof separation may have been justified at one time and may have been recommended by the religious authorities themselves, but we must follow the evolution of the times and not persist in opening our umbrellas because it rained yesterday. The religious authorities on both sides could achieve much by setting the example of an open policy, accepting contact with each other and forestalling each other reciprocally by courtesy in their manners and charity in their words.
2. The Family Environment
The environment of the family lends itself to dialogue even more than that of the street, because it is more intimate and concerns people already united by bonds of the strongest kind. It often
happens that one member of the family is a Christian while the others are not. In this case, it is usually better to avoid religious argument as long as each one is free to practice his faith, but the
Catholic party is bound to give an example to the others, showing that the Christian religion does not create division, nor does it lessen affection and devotion to the family, but is, on the contrary, an aid to progress in all these areas. But great prudence must be exercised in the family circle because it is here that conflicts can be more violent and rancor more lasting.
A broad spirit of understanding is also necessary on the part of both the faithful and the religious authorities. Almost all non-Christian religions have a strong family character, and joyful or sorrowful events are commemorated by rites which are both domestic and religious. To be unreasonably severe regarding what appears to be "participatio in sacris" but is not so in reality, is to render it impossible for Christians to join their relatives during these ceremonies, thus dividing the family, creating embarrassment on the one hand and bitterness on the other, a bitterness which is directed toward the Church rather than toward the individual who follows its commands.
The same is to be said concerning national festivals more or less tinged with religion but which aim especially at uniting all citizens in publicly manifested love of country.
The Church does her best to lend her aid in this domain. Where ceremonies which were at one time religious and therefore prohibited have lost their religious character in the course of time and
are now mere civil rites, she is anxious to authorize them in order to encourage unity among all citizens. This was recently the case in state rites of Shintoism in Japan and of Confucianism in China and the neighboring countries.
The Secretariat is at the disposal of the Ordinaries in regard to all questions of this nature which may arise. It undertakes to consult the competent authorities in order to tranquilize the consciences of the faithful in such cases and where necessary to indicate the exact limits of the permission granted.
3. The Shop and the Office
This is another environment which lends itself admirably to friendly contact between people who have many things in common and are therefore ready to understand each other. An excellent occasion is afforded here for giving the most perfect possible example of Christian life in the eyes of companions and colleagues, a preliminary condition for all successful dialogue. The exercise of self-control and earnestness in one's sphere of work will also be a great means of commanding respect and meriting the confidence of others. In this way one becomes a model which others will like to follow, especially where talent is accompanied by humility and an unassuming manner. Advice given and replies to questions asked will have weight and will provoke reflection.
One of the best and most effective means of practical approach will be the observance of the Church's social doctrine in relation to work and capital. The convinced Christian will play his part in trade-unionist activity to demand what is justified and to oppose excessive claims or recourse to unworthy methods. He will state clearly the principles which he believes should be followed, pointing out their value. These clear-cut principles are generally lacking in the case of others, but since they are based on the natural law, their legitimacy cannot be denied. From this question of justice based on the religious foundation which it pre-supposes, no more than a step is needed to arrive at dialogue.
4. Relations Between One Citizen and Another
Witness can also be borne by the manner in which one acquits oneself of civic duties. True concern for the common good leads one to attend meetings, to take part in discussions and propose
resolutions, and there is the even simpler way which consists in exchanging views in the course of conversation. The assurance which arises from fixed principles concerning conscience and
religion will give added weight to proposals made. The best elements will ask for advice and willingly abide by it. Even where one's efforts do not meet with complete success, one will at least arrive at a lesser evil, which is already something.
In this field a host of problems arise which are of a kind that favors dialogue and collaboration to a great extent. This is particularly the case in underdeveloped countries which are often the scene of
Jesus healed the sick and gave food to the hungry. The action of Christians in needy areas must first of all be expressed in material relief of which the best type is that which teaches people to solve their own difficulties and then to help others in their turn, by spreading instruction where illiteracy reigns, training women in needlework and in the elements of hygiene and child-care, improving tillage where famine prevails, confining oneself to those innovations which do not exceed the means of the country concerned and passing on to the improvement of social conditions, of legislation and institutions. All this constitutes a silent dialogue which is more eloquent than speech and creates a strong symbiosis between Christians and non-Christians in a happy atmosphere of affection and mutual assistance, so that the ground is prepared for the opening of a more forceful dialogue.
In this effort, it will often be advantageous to collaborate with the great international bodies such as UNESCO, FAO, ILO, etc., to which the Holy See has moreover appointed observers.
But the ultimate object of our action must be kept clearly in view. Material progress is to be achieved, but merely as a means of placing men in a surer and happier state in which they have the
necessary tranquility in which to think of higher things.
5. Cultural Contacts
Three chief fields may be distinguished here, namely, the school and teaching in every form, scientific research and the press. The Church has taken its place in each of these three spheres, although more particularly in the first sphere in non-Christian lands.
In the school the Church is to be found present everywhere, from cradle and kindergarten to university, from the care of backward children to the training of specialists in various branches of
These schools are generally open to all without distinction as to religion. In non-Christian lands Catholics are often a mere minority in the midst of the great mass of adherents to other religions, especially in places where liberty of conscience is sincerely respected, as it ought to be. Thanks to these circumstances a triple contact may be established which is most useful.
Firstly, there is the contact between the Catholic teacher and pupil of another religion. If the teacher gives a personal example of dignity, if he devotes himself conscientiously to his task, if he shows real affection and interest toward his pupils, and if he also shows the competence required for his office, he cannot but be admired and loved and his words will bear weight. It is then possible to offer advice and useful guidance in the right direction without mentioning a word of religion. All progress toward good is a step towards God.
Then there is contact between Christian and non-Christian teachers. Just as the latter can sometimes edify us by their professional exactitude and conscience, they can admire our peace
and our joy and feel drawn to seek from us an answer to the problems which arise in their souls. The mere fact of being associated in a good work-and education is never a mere means of
earning a livelihood-establishes confidence between these teachers and ourselves and often prepares them to appreciate the motives which impel us to devote ourselves to such tasks.
Finally, we have contact between parents and teachers. Nothing is a source of greater concern to men than the welfare of their children. To take an interest in the children is sufficient to win the hearts of their parents. The latter will discuss problems arising from the education and guidance of their children and they will speak of the difficulty of finding a solution. Here also the domain of the natural law is opened up and the sphere of religion which is close to it has a good chance of being opened up too.
It would therefore be a mistake to give up the school, even in countries where the government prohibits the teaching of the Catholic religion, even where the teaching of the national religion is
imposed through the appointment of teachers by the government. A lesson in morals can be given in teaching any subject. The possibilities are greater when the subject is ethics properly so-called,
literature, history or philosophy. With the movement of extreme nationalism which recently shook all the countries which became independent a short time ago, Christianity sometimes held its own
solely through the influence of former pupils of our schools, which our religion, however, had not touched directly. The fact is that contacts between pupils, teachers and parents are a powerful
means of dissipating prejudice and suspicion. However, as events show us, it is necessary to provide for the case in which the Christian school will be integrated into the official national education.
Christians must also be encouraged to embrace this career of state school teaching, laymen and women, obviously, but also priests and nuns where this is possible. Thus the presence of Christianity and its influence in the teaching field will be maintained.
As regards research institutes, these represent light and guidance for our activity. They can solve the problems which obstruct our path and draw attention to dangers and misunderstandings. The works they publish reach the public including non-Christians and thus extend the range of their utility in the sphere of dialogue.
Moreover, they offer an irreplaceable means of training for those whose ministry will include dialogue and to whom sound notions on ethnology, comparative psychology, the science of cultures and religions will be increasingly necessary.
Finally, we have the communications media directed toward the masses, and first of all radio and television. Thanks to all these means the Church, with her feasts, her ministers and her worship,
has reached the entire world, even lands in which no priest had yet set foot. Vice versa, we Catholics have become acquainted with the beliefs, the activities and achievements of countries of whose very existence we were hardly aware in the past. Although this contact is quite superficial, it serves to keep before the eyes of the world the fact that there are one and a half billion non-Christians on the one hand, and the fact of the existence of Christ, of His Gospel and His Church on the other hand.
But the principal role belongs to the press, in the form of books, reviews and newspapers. To form an idea of what a book can do, it is enough to consider that India is the second country in the world for the number of Bibles sold, while Japan occupies third place. In the latter country Catholic books are read by more non-Christians than by Catholics. This phenomenon partly explains how Japan, where there are only 300,000 Catholics and 700,000 Christians in all, has three million people who call themselves Christians without belonging to any church. Books, and especially the Gospel, are the missionaries which have won them over.
Likewise there are many Catholic reviews which enjoy wide popularity outside the strictly Christian circle. On the contrary, in mission lands the Church rarely boasts a daily news organ. Even a weekly one has difficulty in finding sufficient readers to keep it alive. We must therefore turn to the neutral press. The best way would be to persuade some director or editor of the importance of our moral and social doctrine for the good of the country concerned. Many people would be reached and would be more easily won over by the fact that the writer is not a Catholic. In certain countries in which the more important papers had previously ignored us completely, a certain penetration occurred recently on the occasion of the council and the efforts made by the Sovereign Pontiff to obtain world peace. All this cannot fail to produce happy fruits in dialogue prepared by this sort of unconscious osmosis which is none the less effective.
Neither is the world of art to be overlooked. Apart from the role it fulfills in our churches, whether we turn to Christian artists or to other great talents desirous of working for us, the Christian idea penetrates through this channel. This occurs first of all among the artists themselves, for they must have the symbolism of our faith explained to them, and subsequently among all those who admire these works in museums, in churches or by means of reproductions in the press. An interesting dialogue can also take place between Christian and non-Christian artists.
In a number of countries the leading theatrical and film companies have adopted Christian subjects concerning their national history. The zeal with which some great actors have studied in order to enter into the spirit of the character they were to impersonate, is worthy of admiration. They themselves cannot have failed to be deeply moved by this, as well as stirring the large public which came to applaud them. Quite recently the leading theater in Japan produced a Christian drama from which crowds had to be turned away for a whole month. This was true preaching to an enormous crowd which it would otherwise have been difficult to reach.
We do not intend to speak here of dialogue between friends or colleagues professing different religions, which also leads naturally to the question of beliefs and rites. If in many cases it is not advisable for the Christian to commence the discussion, it is normal that he should follow his sincere interlocutor avoiding however, any statement on questions which are beyond him, until he has sought information from those qualified to give it.
Here we mean to deal with meetings arranged between ministers or at least specialists of two or more religions, either for the purpose of stating exactly the differences between them or discovering
together the points on which they agree.
Obviously such meetings cannot bear fruit except where there already exists an atmosphere of sympathy and understanding. This is the reason why we have only spoken of this matter in these final pages.
It will be understood that on the Catholic side a preliminary understanding and an authorization from the Ordinary will be required. The representatives of Catholicism must not alone be
thoroughly conversant with Christian thought but must also have a sound knowledge of the other religions concerned. They must be men of solid faith and must be moved by their faith during such
meetings. No matter how fully open they may be to mutual understanding, they must never yield on any point of doctrine for the sake of progress toward unity.
Finally, they must be acquainted with the mentality of their interlocutors so as to recognize favorable opportunities and judge as to what can be said and what should be done.
6. Religious Dialogue Properly So-Called
One of the greatest difficulties in this domain is the ambiguity which arises from the use of words which assume a very different meaning according as they are applied to one religion or another,
words such as "God," "person," "sin," and so forth. We already meet this difficulty in that which concerns the different philosophical schools of the West. The situation becomes worse when there is question of placing a divine religion parallel to a human religion, when these religions are based upon contrasting philosophies.
In order to overcome this difficulty to some extent we propose to prepare a lexicon which will set forth these differences clearly. We are happy to learn that this problem is also being studied elsewhere. Similar works will contribute toward greater clarification on this most important point.
But we should not have too many illusions as to the result of this religious dialogue. Prejudices may be dissipated, as, for example, the rooted belief of the Moslems that we are polytheists because we believe in the Trinity, or again, the horror experienced by the Hindus at seeing us attribute to the divinity the creation of matter or a personality. The field of divergencies will be more limited but in what is essential two solutions alone will after all remain, either synchretism or acceptance, of which one is inadmissible.
But apart from this meeting at the summit, there are various preparatory stages which have a certain immediate utility and afford an opportunity of drawing closer. The first consists in the relations of esteem and courtesy between religious leaders, something which has already been achieved in various parts of the world. Then there is the understanding which permits the faithful of two different religions to live side by side in harmony, maintaining peace and safeguarding the common good. This has been achieved recently in Vietnam by the creation of a Council of Religions within which the different creeds are entitled to an equal number of votes. Many disputes have already been averted or settled since the creation of this body. On a still higher level, in the strictly religious sense, it is possible to proceed with advantage to the holding of conferences
between qualified representatives of the two parties concerned, not yet with a view to seeking convergence but in order to reach a better understanding.
ORGANIZATION OF DIALOGUE
Dialogue between people belonging to different religions is by no means unprecedented. It is to be found at the root of every apostolate and it has been attempted in all epochs under various
forms and with varying degrees of success. But what actually dates from the Second Vatican Council is the meeting proposed to the religions themselves as such. To promote the achievement of this end, His Holiness Pope Paul VI has created the Secretariat for Non-Christians, one of the three secretariats whose purpose is dialogue with the entire world.
The secretariat began by endeavoring to find out what had already been accomplished in this field. Shortly after its foundation it sought information on this point from the Ordinaries, from whom numerous replies were received. It continues to maintain a listening attitude toward the world, using to advantage also the knowledge of its consultors. On the basis of this experience, bearing in mind the possibilities which it suggested and the precautions which it advised, we have set to work.
The opening up and the constant progress of dialogue throughout the world calls for the contribution of every sector of the Church, each according to its own aptitude. It will be necessary later to train those who offer their cooperation, according to their needs and possibilities, ranging from priests to workmen and peasants. As far as their mandate is concerned, they receive it from the Ordinaries either directly or indirectly.
The training of clerics takes place in the seminaries; the various council decrees or constitutions concerning priests have indicated the necessary preparation in view of dialogue with non-Christians. But at least in the case of certain priests, whose responsibility will be greater, this training must be completed in higher institutes. There are some such institutes in existence here and there which are carrying on valuable work, some of them engaged exclusively in research, while others combine research with teaching. We must hope that these institutes may be multiplied and we propose to have recourse to them more and more, pointing out to them matters worthy of research, which may have escaped their notice.
Recourse to these specialists saves seminary staff from the difficult and expensive task of procuring highly specialized personnel and ensures the help of experts whom it would be difficult to find elsewhere.
As regards Religious of both sexes, these also have their training schools. Certain congregations which are essentially missionary and destined for work in well-determined territories are already teaching the sciences and the practical knowledge necessary for this field of apostolate. But these also will need to seek complementary knowledge in the research institutes.
The training of the laity is more fully assured when they belong to organized groups or Catholic Action movements. Here they will be carefully prepared both before they set out and also after their arrival in the field of their apostolate. It will be better for them to work in groups or teams so as to sustain each other reciprocally. But they should also keep in touch with a center, and this is by far the best method especially for the younger ones. As the majority merely intend to devote a year or so of their youth to non-Christians, there is no question here of extensive training. On the contrary, in the case of those, either married or celibate, alone or in a family, who intend to devote their life or a large part of it to such work, a more complete training will be necessary, according to their capacity and their particular needs. For a certain number, courses in institutes or special schools will be found necessary.
In all these categories it will be necessary to encourage the sense of and attention to continual discovery, never satisfied but always alert to evolution of the people and the circumstances. It will be found very helpful for those engaged in dialogues either in the same country or in various countries of the world to keep in touch. To this end, the secretariat places at the disposal of all those interested its bulletin which will not be what it ought to be until it is really in a position to convey from one dialogue worker to another this mass of experiences and of information.
The secretariat also places itself at the disposal of all in order to seek a solution to their problems and difficulties. If these difficulties are of a general nature, concerning a diocese, a country or even a number of countries, we shall first of all seek the opinion of the hierarchy, with a view to arriving at an overall solution. The Ordinaries should set down the facts as they present themselves in the country concerned, the favorable circumstances, the fears of scandal, or other difficulties of one kind or another. They should then add their own personal opinion in regard to the problem and its solution. If they do not reach an agreement or a sufficient degree of certainty, we shall have the matter studied on their behalf in Rome on a basis of the indications, which they will have sent us. The more widespread institution of a Commission of Non-Christians in the various national
episcopal conferences will greatly facilitate this work.
Another powerful means of continuing the training of dialogue workers is recourse to days or weeks dedicated to revision and investigation, during which new methods will be made known,
successful experiments will be related as well as the difficulties encountered, and the participants will seek together a solution which someone elsewhere may already have found.
The present directives, put forward as the best we can at this stage, are only however presented as a point of departure. Since they are proposed as guides for the crossing of unexplored or little
known territory, they need to go through the most telling test of all, namely that of being put into practice. We are counting very largely then on the hope that people will tell us of their experiences in this matter.
If people do tell us, then whether their experience has been positive or negative it will not only be profit to us but to many others involved in dialogue. We intend therefore to report these in our
bulletin for all those who are interested, with discretion of course, and to correct or add to our guide in the light of these comments.
One should not then hesitate to write simply and frankly, not letting oneself be deterred by the fear of offending or hurting us: everything is welcome which can be of service.
1. We wish to mention here that the problem of the historical origin of religion (and of the phenomena connected with it, such as myths, rites, magic. etc.), based on empirical documentation, has escaped from the properly scientific domain of the history of religions and belongs rather to psychological, philosophical and theological inquiry.
2. But symbolism must be understood in quite a realistic sense. For in many cases it is not a question of mere intentional reminiscence but, as it were, of a real composition, a symbiosis of the two parts as in the case of the right and the wrong side of cloth. Then the perceptible side is not limited to symbolizing but evokes the mysterious and invisible side which though hidden is more real than would appear.
3. In Islamism the fundamental spirituality breaks away from the revealed law itself, in its norms and dogmas and rites (cf. R. Arnaldez, La mystique Musulmane, in "La mystique et les Mystiques," p. 571-648). However, the Moslem tradition has known an ascetico-mystical current (tasawwuf) which has given rise to genuine and very high mystical experiences. And Moslem orthodoxy has welcomed and adopted the majority of the works of the mystics, thanks to Ghazali in particular.
4. Message to various groups of people, A.A.S. 58 (1966) p. 13 and 14.
5. One cannot in fact neither ignore nor underestimate the delicate problems which feminine collaboration can cause. But a serious formation, and the continual process of keeping informed, will anticipate the greater part of them or allow for their solution.
6 In this respect, however, there is a difference between the ancient refined cultures of Eastern Asia and the African countries in course of evolution. It would appear that the latter do not expect adaptation on our part where customs are concerned.
7. This was the case in Japan about the year 1600 when the missionaries prided themselves on having restated their refutation of Buddhism, without realizing that Buddhism had passed into the background while Confucianism had come to occupy the first place. The same can be said of Vietnam at the present time with the unforeseen entry onto the political stage of a Buddhism which had always remained foreign to it.