VOLUME XI:2 July - December 2021
Dr Roberto Catalano, a consecrated layman in the Focolare Movement, spoke to the DIM·MID Board of Directors at their quarterly meeting, via Zoom, on June 15, 2021. Following his meeting with us, he blogged—in English and in Italian—about the importance of the monastic approach to interreligious dialogue.
Reflecting on his twenty years of interreligious activity in India, his twelve years as co-director of the Centre for Interreligious Dialogue of the Focolare Movement, and his regular teaching of a course on the Theology and Praxis of  Dialogue at Sophia University, in Loppiano, Dr Catalano focused on the creative tension between identity and pluralism in interreligious dialogue. With regard to his time in India, he said, “To enter into Indian culture never meant to abandon my Western mental frame. Rather it meant to reach the conviction that others can have their own mental frames.” What we must bring to dialogue, he said, is an “empathic commitment to be one with the other,” recognizing that our own way of thinking is incomplete, that other ways of thinking, speaking, and living are as valid as my own, and that no one can claim to possess the truth. At the same time, unless we are secure in and open about our own Christian identity, dialogue is impossible and useless.
Prior to 2021, the DIM·MID Board of Directors, an international body comprised of the five regional coordinators of DIM·MID, the President of A.I.M., the Secretary General of DIM·MID, and elected member, would normally meet once a year by conference call. The experience was not very satisfactory, to say the least. Last year, thanks the widespread availability of and increased familiarity with videoconferencing, the decision was made to have quarterly meetings (March, June, September, and December). It was also decided that in the first three meetings of each year guest speakers would be invited to share with us their experience and understanding of interreligious dialogue.
Dr Muhammad Ali Shomali, an Iranian Shi‘a Muslim who has been a key participant in the Monastic-Muslim dialogues co-sponsored by DIM·MID, was our first guest. At our March meeting he told us how he was introduced to interreligious dialogue through his contact with monks of Ampleforth Abbey. He devoted the remainder of his presentation to “Listening together to God” as the goal of Christian-Muslim dialogue, and to the significance of Pope Francis’ meeting with the Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani on his three-day apostolic visit to Iraq in March 2021. Dr Shomali’s presentation can be viewed here.
At our September meeting, Dr Catalano will again join us for an extended discussion on his presentation.
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