Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism Needs to be Priority for Society, Jesuit says

In September, Jesuits from around the World came together to Rome to meet with Father General Adolfo Nicolás about the ever evolving issue of interreligious dialogue and ecumenical outreach. Jesuit Father Thomas Rausch, the T. Marie Chilton Professor of Catholic Theology at Loyola Marymount University attended this meeting, and offered his reflections to National Jesuit News on the issues facing today’s Society and the future of interreligious dialogue.

In 1995, the Jesuits came together in their General Congregation to broaden the understanding of the Society’s mission, to include the proclamation of the Gospel and the evangelization of culture. Recognizing that that Jesuits today carry out their mission in a world of ecclesial and religious pluralism, this past September, Jesuits from around the globe came together in Rome, to discuss the future and expansion of this mission.

Mindful of this, Father General Adolfo Nicolás reorganized the Jesuit Curia’s one-man secretariat for ecumenical and interreligious affairs, appointing eight Jesuits from around the world who would meet with him every September for three years to advise him on shaping Jesuit mission in these areas. The most recent meeting included discussions that were wide-ranging, covering topics such as; new challenges to ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, how those from different religions might find ways to pray together or in each other’s company, how to encourage dialogue with indigenous and traditional religions, and how to prepare Jesuits for engagement with all these issues.

A number of suggestions were made, among them, finding ways to encourage young Jesuits to prepare themselves for teaching and entering into dialogue with Asian and African religions, the need for a Center for African Studies or study center in Rome for relations with Muslims, that the Society needs a new Ratio Studiorum to train Jesuits for ministry in today’s religiously pluralistic world.  In philosophates and/or theologates there should be a basic, required course in ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, as well as courses on Protestant and Orthodox churches as well as a basic course on world religious, including traditional or indigenous religions.

One of the most interesting moments in the course of the meeting was a presentation by Monsignor Juan Usma Gómez from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on the growth of Pentecostalism today.  He said that Pentecostalism in its various forms—classical, charismatics in mainline churches, and Neo-Pentecostals—represents some 600 million Christians today.  He repeated a line often heard about the Church in Latin America: the Catholic Church chose an option for the poor, but the poor chose Pentecostalism.  There is much that Catholics can learn from Pentecostals.  They are very much a missionary movement, something often lost in the mainline churches, and they challenge Catholics to rediscover our own spiritual treasures.  In his closing remarks Father General said that ecumenism and interreligious dialogue were among those frontier areas where Jesuits do their work today.

One Response to “Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism Needs to be Priority for Society, Jesuit says”

  • I am very heartened by this conversation. Our Jesuit university (Xavier, Cincinnati OH) has a formal Office of Interfaith Community Engagement. I am privileged to serve as its founding director. We are not the office of the “other”, rather our leadership and our program attendees represent the broad spectrum of spiritual journeys and faiths at Xavier. More than 50% of our student leadership is Catholic, reflecting the fabric of the university. I was inspired in this work by two Jesuits – Fr. Edward Brueggeman of blesssed memory, and our university’s president, Fr. Michael Graham. But the words of Fr. Hans Kolvenbach in his address at Xavier still resonate with me – “How can the dialogues of life, action, religious experience and theological exchange assist and deepen your experience as educators so that you might admit and take advantage of ethnic, racial, gender and religious differences among you?” That is indeed the core question; at Xavier University we are discovering answers each day – and a few more questions.