VOLUME IX, Number 2
July - December 2019





Saint Willibrord Abbey in the Netherlands was the site of the 2019 meetings of the DIM·MID Board of Directors and the Coordinators of the European sub-commissions. In past years, the annual meetings of the Board of Directors have taken place via conference call, Skype, or Zoom, but always with limited success. In addition to technological difficulties, scheduling a meeting has been a problem because the participants are separated by fifteen time zones. The board members decided on face-to-face meetings every four years as they continue to look for a way to hold the annual meeting without the necessity of travel.
The Benedictine community of Saint Willibrord has a long history of commitment to monastic interreligious dialogue. In its retreat house is a zendo, to which is attached a rock garden, patterned on the famous Zen gardens of Kyoto. Father Cornelius Tholens one of the founders of DIM·MID, served as abbot of this community from 1954 to 1972. Brother Kefas Rietkirk is the current coordinator of the Dutch/Flemish sub-commission of DIM·MID.
The meeting began with congratulations to two at-large members of the board, Father Anselmo Park from Waegwan Abbey in Korea and Father Maximilian Musindai from the Benedictine of the Copts Priory in Egypt. Father Anselmo received his doctorate from Regis College, University of Toronto, last December. His dissertation, entitled Thomas Merton’s Encounter with Buddhism and Beyond: His Interreligious Dialogue, Inter-Monastic Exchanges and Their Legacy was published by Liturgical Press and received the Thomas Merton award given by the International Thomas Merton Society to an individual who has written and published in the period between the General Meetings a work on Merton and his concerns that has brought provocative insight and fresh direction to Merton studies.
On September 18, 2019, Father Maximilian successfully defended his dissertation at the Pontifical Institute for the Study of Arabic and Islam (PISAI) in Rome. He will receive a Doctorate of Arabic and Islamic Studies (DAIS) upon publication of an excerpt his dissertation, which is entitled The Salvation of the ‘Religious Other’: The Contemporary Neo-Rationalist Perspective of Muslim Scholars.
Father Cosmas Hoffman, coordinator of the European DIM·MID Commission, was offered thanks for his article on “Monasticism in the Qur’ān.” It appeared in the most recent issue of Erbe und Auftrag, which was devoted to “Monasticism and Islam.”
Fr. Pierre François de Béthune, one of the founders of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue and its first Secretary General, was invited to speak to the board. He emphasized that the specific kind of dialogue monks have to develop in the Church is dialogue at the spiritual level, what Raimon Panikkar calls intra-religious dialogue. By entering into dialogue at the level of spiritual experience and practice with the followers of other religions, Christian monastics strive to come to a better understanding not only of the spiritual traditions of their dialogue partners, but to a deeper understanding of and commitment to their own Christian spiritual heritage and practice. For monastics, dialogue is not a diplomatic activity to promote peace through mutual understanding. Peace is not the aim but rather the fruit of monastic interreligious dialogue. Monks and nuns enter into dialogue for the joy of encountering the work of the Holy Spirit in the souls of other people. The fruit of this joy is peace.
In the day devoted to reports on monastic interreligious activities throughout the world, it was noted that the seven Benedictine and Trappist superiors in the Republic of Korea are planning to establish a commission for monastic interreligious dialogue. Father Anselmo will act as liaison between DIM·MID and Abbot Blasio Park of Waegwan to ensure that the commission to be established can be recognized and confirmed as a commission of DIM·MID at the 2023 meeting of the board of directors.
Father Maximilian will continue the process of organizing a Pan-African commission for monastic interreligious dialogue that was begun with the Monastic-Muslim dialogue that took place in Nairobi in 2017. The directors likewise hope to be able to give formal recognition to a Pan-African commission for monastic interreligious dialogue at their 2023 meeting.
The meeting of the Board of Directors was followed by the annual meeting of the Coordinators of the European sub-commissions of DIM·MID. Following the pattern established in previous meetings, the first day was devoted to visiting a spiritual center of a tradition other than Christianity and the following two days to reports from the various sub-commissions and to on-going formation for interreligious dialogue.
The participants spent the first day at Zen River Temple, a year-round Buddhist training center on the north coast of the Netherlands. Tenkei Roshi, who founded the temple in 2002, spoke to the group on Zen meditation and on Zen monastic practices. The visit to Zen River also included attendance at the morning and afternoon chanting services, a midday meal, and time for socializing with the resident community of the temple.
The day for formation, in which members of the Dutch/Flemish sub-commission also took part, featured a presentation by Father Anselmo on Thomas Merton and his contemplative dialogue with Buddhism.
William Skudlarek OSB
Secretary General
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