Dilatato Corde 4:1
January - June, 2014

Picking up the spirit of the II Vatican Council Pope John Paul II promoted passionately the emergence of a culture of inter-religious dialogue. The Day of Prayer with the spiritual leaders of world religions at Assisi in 1986, the numerous pilgrimages to countries having a majority of non-Christians, the close association with the spiritual masters of other religions, the orientations given to the Secretariat for Inter-religious Dialogue at the Vatican, the respectful way of speaking about other religions in his encyclicals and other writings  - all give witness to the passion that he had to promote a culture of dialogue and harmony among religions. Coming from the Polish Church he hardly had live contacts with believers of other religions. But right from the beginning of his Pontificate he gave high priority to commitment in fostering good inter-religious relationships. As a disciple of Jesus he was deeply Christ-centred, as the Pontiff he was rooted in the Church, as a spiritual seeker he was open to the movements of the divine Spirit in all religions, and as a human person he was committed to integral human welfare. In his writings one can notice a sound theological movement between ecclesio-centrism and anthropo-centrism, exploring the depth of Christo-centrism and the width of theo-centrism.

I draw just one line of thought aligning some of the key statements of John Paul II on a culture of inter-religious harmony.
1.The Divine is an unfathomable mystery. No concrete revelation, no particular religion, no holy Scripture, no theological category can fully and exhaustively reveal the divine mystery. “If you know God, it is not God!” (Augustine). That the Divine is an infinite mystery is the beginning and end of every genuine theology. “We call God by many names, without however completely exhausting the divine reality, which is beyond us.” (JP-II, Senegal, 20.02.1992)
2. God is a Living God. God reveals the Godself throughout history, in all cultures and at all times. The entire history of humanity is the history of God´s revelation / self-communication. The divine Spirit vibrates in the hearts of all humans and the divine Logos pulsates in the Scriptures and symbols of diverse religions. “Religions are many and varied, and they reflect the desire of men and women down through the ages to enter into a relationship with the Absolute Being.” (JP-II, Assisi, 27.10.1986)  “God is in an age-long dialogue with humanity.” (JP-II, Rome, 13.11.1992)
3. The entire human race is the People of God: one divine origin, one divine providence, one final goal. “God wants all people to be saved.” (I Tim.2:4) “The entire human race, in the infinite complexity of its history, with its different cultures, is called to form the new People of God. There is only one divine plan for every human being who comes into this world, one single origin and goal, whatever may be the culture in which one grows up and expresses oneself.” (JP-II, Rome, 22.12.1986)
4. Human persons are endowed with the dimension of self-transcendence, with the spiritual quest. Hence people ask existential questions on life and life after death. Humans listen to God and articulate the experiences in religious Scriptures, symbols, rituals and moral codes. Religions are the expressions of the spiritual experiences. “Though the routes taken may be different, there is but a single goal to which is directed the deepest aspiration of the human spirit, as expressed in its quest for God and also in its quest for the full dimension of humanity.” (JP-II, Red. Hom. 11)
5. The history of humanity is the history of the ongoing dialogue between the Divine and the human. This process has peak moments, in which there is an intense experience of God-man dialogue. This is articulated through a salvific event / a sage / a prophet / an incarnational form / a symbol / a movement …A small community perceives this divine breakthrough (kairos) and evolves gradually into a religion. “The divine Spirit is at the very source of man´s existential and religious questioning. Hence his presence and activity are universal, limited  neither by space nor time.” (JP-II, Red. Miss. 28) “Christians should recognize the divine Spirit operating outside the visible confines of the Mystical Body.” (JP-II, Red. Hom. 6)
6. Scriptures are composed from the collective memory of this divine self-revelation and human response. Since these Scriptures evolve in the course of the universal process of God-man dialogue, they form the common spiritual patrimony of humanity. The great Holy Scriptures belong to all of us beyond the religious barriers. “The Spirit who blows where he wills is the source of inspiration for all that is true and beautiful, according to the magnificent phrase of an unknown author from the time of Pope Damascus (366-384), which states: every truth, no matter who says it, comes from the Holy Spirit.” (JP-II, Rome, 05.12.1990)
7. Each religion (and religious Scripture) has to be interpreted in the universal process of God-man dialogue and hence understood in relation to one another. The great Holy Scriptures of all religions form the universal spiritual patrimony of humanity. An inter-religious hermeneutics is needed. “The interior and mysterious workings of God´s Spirit are to be recognized in the great religious and sapiential traditions of East and West.” (JP-II, Vet.Sap. 94)
8. Each religion is different, and the differences have to be acknowledged. Each religion is conditioned by time and culture, by the historical factors and cultural forms. Each religion has to be studied in the respective cultural context of the believing community. ”It is precisely because we often differ on certain important points that an attitude of mutual respect and esteem is all the more necessary.” (JP-II, Rome, 12.06. 1986)
9. Deep within the level of differences in religions there are converging lines of spirituality. “Differences are a less important element, when confronted with the unity which is radical, fundamental and decisive.” (JP-II, Assisi, 22,12.1986) “The action of the Holy Spirit, who in every time and place has prepared the encounter with the living God in all souls and peoples, is still at work today in the hearts of human beings, in cultures and in religions. It is the same Spirit who was at work in the Incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and who is at work today in the Church. Every one´s task is to discern and respond to the presence and activity of the Spirit.” (JP-II, Rome, 11.04.1991)
10. Each religion is unique: revealing a particular dimension of the ineffable divine mystery. One religion should not be compared with another religion. “Loyalty demands that we recognize and respect our differences.” (JP-II, Morocco, 19.08.1985)
11. Each religion has a universal message. God speaks to humans of a particular time but with relevance for all peoples, for all times. Hence it is important to explore the contemporary message of each religion (hermeneutics) “Interreligious dialogue at its deepest level is always a dialogue of salvation, because it seeks to discover, clarify and understand better the signs of the age-long dialogue which God maintains with humanity.” (JP-II, Rome, 13.11.1992)
12. Each religion is to be understood in dialogue with the others to explore the deeper significance. One needs a devout reading of the other Scriptures to perceive the divine Logos pulsating in them, and a respectful study of the symbols of other religions to understand the working of divine grace communicated through them. “Church´s relationship with other religions is dictated by a twofold respect: respect for man in his quest for answers to the deepest questions of his life, and respect for the action of the Spirit in man.” (JP-II, Red. Miss. 29) “Authentic dialogue is accomplished by respecting and listening to one another.” (JP-II, Rome, 03.03.1984) “I am fully convinced that the time is ripe in human history for followers of various religions to seek a new respect for one another.” (JP-II, Colombo, 21.01.1995)
13. In a truly spiritual encounter with the other religions, one meets the other not just before of oneself (inter-religious dialogue) but much more within oneself (intra-religious dialogue). Then the other will awaken certain dormant dimensions of an integrated spirituality within oneself. One listens to the Word of God in and through the other.  Inter-religious dialogue becomes a sort of sacramental experience. “By dialogue we let God be present in our midst, for as we open ourselves in dialogue to one another, we open ourselves to God.” (JP-II, Madras, 05.02.1986)
14. With the sisters and brothers of other religions we are co-pilgrims in search of the height and depth, length and breadth of the mystery of the divine presence within and around us. “God would like the developing history of humanity to be a pilgrimage in which we accompany one another towards the transcendent goal which he sets for us. Either we walk together in peace and harmony, or we drift apart and ruin ourselves and others.” (JP-II, Assisi, 27.10.1986, italics added) “We are all pilgrims on the path of seeking to do God´s will in everything. Let us always be willing to speak to each other, to listen to each other.” (JP-II, Gambia, 23.02.1992) 
15. In this pilgrim process we Christians share our deep Christ-experience with the others in an authentic and respectful way so that the others perceive what God has done for humanity through the person and message of Jesus Christ. This is mission. “In Christ God calls all peoples to himself and he wishes to share with them the fullness of revelation and love.” (JP-II, Red.Miss. 55)
16. In this pilgrim process we also listen to the salvific experiences of the others, so that we realize the movements of the Spirit that blows where it wills. “We should have a deep respect for everything that has been brought about in human beings by the Spirit who blows, where it wills.” (JP-II, Red. Miss. 56)  “For the Church dialogue is based on the very life of God, one and triune. God is Father of all humanity; Christ has joined every person to himself; the Spirit is at work in each individual.” (JP-II, Rome, 03.03. 1984)  “Dialogue is a path towards the Kingdom of God. “ (JP-II, Red. Miss. 57)
17. Through inter-religious dialogue the liberative potential of each religion comes to the fore. Concern for the integral liberation of the human person, commitment to justice and peace, option for the poor and the marginalized and concern for the protection of the environment become the focal points of a culture of inter-religious dialogue and collaboration. “Only through inter-religious dialogue can the powerful role of religious faith be placed at the service of peace through the elimination of prejudice and intolerance.” (JP-II, Rome, 21.06.1991) “Inter-religious collaboration must be concerned with the struggle to eliminate hunger, poverty, ignorance, persecution, discrimination and every form of enslavement of the human spirit. Religion is the mainspring of society´s commitment to justice; inter-religious collaboration must reaffirm this in practice.” (JP-II, Delhi, 02.02.1986) “Christians will work together in order to bring about a more just and peaceful society in which the poor will be the first to be served.” (JP-II, To the people of Asia, 21.02.1981)
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