Publisher: Libreria Editrice Vaticana
This booklet by Cardinal Angelo Amato is most helpful in clarifying the sense, scope and method of inter-religious dialogue, about which there is a certain degree of confusion in the minds of the faithful. When arguments such as these are discussed, the core theme is the relationship between dialogue and announcement. When a Christian dialogues with the faithful of other religions must he set aside the duty to announce Christ as the one and only Saviour or not? Let’s see what Cardinal Amato has to say about this.
First of all, he distinguishes the dialogue of charity from the dialogue of truth. The former has to do with justice, and the latter with the objective discernment of the reality of the respective religions. Naturally enough, this second type of dialogue is the most important one.
The point of departure is the Christian claim of being the true religion. The other religions also advance this claim, but there are important differences. First of all, for Christianity this truth stems from the fact that God Himself revealed His presence and above all revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, hence not through a prophet or a mediator-interpreter, but through the selfsame Christ, who is “the mystery revealing and the mystery revealed”, and this bestows an absolutely unique character upon Christianity.
Secondly, the Church’s truth is for one and all, not only for experts, insofar as it is not only a theoretical truth, but also practical truth, truth for concrete life.
Therefore, how are other religions to be considered? Nowadays there is a tendency to consider the various religions as multiple expressions of one and the same attitude, and hence all partially true and basically false in part. Christianity on the contrary considers the other religions as having the character of ‘Advent’, which refers them to Christ. This in its turn implies the obligation to “send all peoples to the school of Jesus” (an expression of Cardinal Ratzinger). The revelation of Christ encompasses all the positive aspects of other religions.
“Not corresponding to reality”, asserts Cardinal Amato, “would be the attitude of those Christians, who, driven by humility or a wish not to offend others, retain Christianity one among the world’s many religions. Moreover, far from Christian would be a lack of attention with respect to what is good and valid in other religions”. The affirmation that Christianity is the only true religion in no way justifies fanaticism or religious intolerance.
Then again, Christianity is an intentionally salvific religion, and therefore a Christian in dialogue not only cannot conceal his own identity, but cannot venture to separate dialogue from announcement, because in this case the dialogue endeavour would be an end unto itself. Proposing Christianity to others does not mean perpetrating violence upon the liberty of conscience of other persons, because respect for said liberty of conscience does not mean indifference with respect to truth and good, the greatest of which is knowledge of the true God and the encounter with Jesus Christ. Cardinal Amato affirms that the motive or driver of inter-religious dialogue in truth is to make people know about Christ’s love for humanity as a whole. Dialogue cannot take the place of announcement.
Angelo Amato, Dialogo interreligioso. Significato e valore, (Inter-religious Dialogue. Significance and value) Libreria editrice vaticana, Vatican City, 2011, pgs. 62, € 6,00.