New statement cites respect for Muslims from Vatican II, popes
Expresses sadness over violence, Christians who reject engagement
Joins Pope Francis in saying dialogue leads to growth, witness and peace
The Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reasserted their commitment to dialogue with other religions and Muslims in particular in a statement developed between October 2013 and its release August 19. The committee, which is chaired by Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore, listed tensions between Christians in Muslims in different parts of the world as a primary reason for reaffirming the need for dialogue.
“We understand the confusion and deep emotions stirred by real and apparent acts of aggression and discrimination by certain Muslims against non-Muslims, often against Christians abroad,” the bishops wrote. “Along with many of our fellow Catholics and the many Muslims who themselves are targeted by radicals, we wish to voice our sadness, indeed our outrage, over the random and sometimes systematic acts of violence and harassment — acts that for both Christians and Muslims threaten to disrupt the harmony that binds us together in mutual support, recognition, and friendship.”
The bishops expressed sadness over “deliberate rejection” of the call to engage in dialogue with Muslims by some Christians, Catholic and not. They noted that the call to respect and dialogue comes from the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) and has been reaffirmed by subsequent popes. They also noted that, for nearly 20 years, their committee has dialogued with several national Muslim organizations, producing documents on education, marriage and revelation.
“Perhaps most importantly, our work together has forged true bonds of friendship that are supported by mutual esteem and ever-growing trust that enables us to speak candidly with one another in an atmosphere of respect,” the bishops wrote. “Through dialogue we have been able to work through and overcome much of our mutual ignorance, habitual distrust, and debilitating fear.”
The bishops affirmed Pope Francis’ words of November 28, 2013, to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, that “dialogue does not mean renouncing one’s identity” nor accepting compromises on faith and morals. They wrote, “Like the pope, we are convinced that the encounter and dialogue with persons different than ourselves offers the best opportunity for fraternal growth, enrichment, witness, and ultimately peace.”
Full text of the statement is available online: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/interreligious/islam/dialogue-with-muslims-committee-statement.cfm
Vatican and papal statements regarding Muslims are also available online: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/interreligious/islam/vatican-council-and-papal-statements-on-islam.cfm
Information on Catholic-Muslim dialogues in the United States is available at: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/interreligious/islam/index.cfm