Wednesday, April 18, 2012


During the plenary meeting of the Catholic Association of (Arch)Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers (CADEIO), here at the National Workshop on Christian Unity (NWCU), we were addressed by Bishop Denis Madden, an auxiliary for Baltimore and a member of the bishops’ committee on ecumenical affairs.  He offered an extraordinary challenge to us: 
"Push the dialogue as far as you can,” he said.
What should this mean, in practice?
I think, first and foremost, that it is nothing more than the declaration of Pope John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical letter Ut Unum Sint when he insisted that the Catholic Church is “irrevocably committed” to ecumenism.  We should never cease to enter into and foster relationships that can help break down walls of division, especially those stemming from prejudice, resentment and misconceptions rather than substantive disagreement.

It means, too, I think, that dialogue for us cannot be focused on only one set of partners:  we should be a body that reaches out in all directions, including (these days, perhaps, especially) in the interreligious direction:  less to bring about “unity” and more to be able to see each other as brothers and sisters who can live together in mutual respect and harmony.  Imam Imad Enchassi yesterday told us since Muslims trace their ancestry to Abraham through Ishmael, while Jews (and Christians, figuratively—Romans 4:11ff) trace through Isaac, then we are indeed “Brothers from a different Mother.”  Can we not live as though we were such?

If we could “push the dialogue as far as we can,” who knows what barriers might be overcome?

A second statement we heard both sobers and encourages us in perseverance.  It came from the CADEIO Executive Committee President, Fr Don Rooney.  He thought that the most important thing we could be as someone involved in dialogue would be “To be a door-keeper for the Holy Spirit.”  In other words, our actions in the long run achieve nothing:  we only want to be “out of the way of God” (as Mother Teresa said).  We want to make it easier rather than harder for the Holy Spirit’s presence to be felt and effective.

These goals are doable.  We can push the dialogue, and we can hold the door open for the Holy Spirit.  In Cursillo there is a saying:  Make a friend; be a friend; bring the friend to Christ.”  I would only modify it slightly—“Make a friend; be a friend; go together, as friends, to Christ.”

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