Cardinal Arinze, who serves as president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue at the Vatican and is widely considered a leading candidate to succeed Pope John Paul II, spent a half-day at Boston College on Oct. 31. He met with students and faculty, celebrated Mass at St. Mary's Hall and addressed a standing-room only crowd in Gasson 100.
At a round-table discussion with faculty and graduate students from the Theology Department held in the British Catholic Authors Room of Burns' Library, Cardinal Arinze said Catholics must realize that dialogue between religions is best achieved through issues of common concern, such as social outreach.
"It's not a debate or a contest to see who will win," he said. "We need to discuss where we agree."
An essential element to dialogue, said the cardinal, is for the participants from various religions to understand their own faith, before they can interact with those who have other beliefs.
"One must have a clear-cut image of who they are," said Cardinal Arinze, joking that a person who does not know the essential dogmatic elements of his or her faith can be likened to a citizen who cannot name his or her nation's president.
Cardinal Francis Arinze speaks with graduate Theology students (L-R) Jeremy Wilkins and David and Angela Franks after a roundtable discussion held Oct. 31 in Burns Library. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Asked to explain the relationship between interreligious dialogue and missionary work, the cardinal said that the goal of missionary work is not to convert others to Christianity, although this may happen as a result of it. The proper end of missionary work, he said, is mutual enrichment and dialogue which also lead to the creation of social harmony and the reduction of injustice.
After celebrating Mass at St. Mary's and attending a private dinner at Burns Library, the cardinal lectured on "The Role of the Catholic University in Interreligious Dialogue."
Cardinal Arinze said that the Catholic university is the center of thought in the Catholic Church and should be involved in the Church's efforts to meet people of other religions in dialogue and collaboration. He said a major question for Catholic theology, with respect to interreligious dialogue, is that of religious belonging and salvation.
The cardinal also offered ideas for Catholic universities to promote interreligious dialogue, which included measures to strengthen the teaching of Catholic theology, the creation of courses in world religions, the promotion of measures respecting religious freedoms of students and faculty and the creation of forums with participants of various religions.
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