9/19/12 | 546 views
Catholic-Muslim Dialogue Off to New Start
Reconvening a dialogue that had become dormant, Cardinal Dolan last week welcomed Muslim and other Catholic leaders to a meeting in his offices at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan.
Although subsequent meetings are likely to delve into deeper issues, the first such Catholic-Muslim dialogue, on Sept. 13, was a getting-to-know-you gathering. In addition to the cardinal, there are currently 12 members.
“We’re all proud citizens of a city that is an icon to the whole world of religious friendship and cooperation,” the cardinal said. “New York is a magnificent example of religion working together, and religion being on the side of the good of humanity.”
Countering a culture that sometimes aligns religion and faith with evil, violence and oppression remains among the greatest challenges faced by religious leaders today, the cardinal said.
Equally challenging is countering the claim, “If we’re going to have a progressive, humanistic society, religion must be sidelined.”
On the contrary, the cardinal told the dialogue participants, “You and I know that religion affirms everything that is noble and decent and life-giving and liberating in the human project.”
That reality rings true in New York, and consistently has, Cardinal Dolan said, whenever there has been a crisis, difficulty or tension.
Religion, for the most part, has in fact been part of the solution rather than part of the problem, he added. “And if we’re going to keep that tradition alive, we’ve got to know each other. I’ve got to have you on my Rolodex.”
The cardinal then cited another reason for the dialogue. “My boss, Pope Benedict XVI, has told us bishops ‘you must build bridges with the Islamic community.’”
Muslims and Catholics, the cardinal said, have much more in common than they have differences. Among the commonalities, he noted, “We both believe in the same God.”
As the Catholic Church continues its preparations for the universal celebration of the Year of Faith Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013, and the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council Oct. 11, Pope Benedict has asked Catholics to renew their fidelity to the Second Vatican Council, of which a primary teaching pertains to interreligious dialogue.
Mindful of the commemorations, the cardinal said he surmised, “I better make sure that we have our act together when it comes to outreach and friendship with the Islamic community.”
The resurgence of the Catholic-Muslim dialogue is also history in the making. “Our meeting this afternoon is an answer to prayers,” the cardinal said.
Upon becoming Archbishop of New York in 2009, one of Cardinal Dolan’s goals has been to meet with the multitude of religious leaders of the metropolitan area, among them “distinguished Islamic brethren,” he said.
In that regard, “your presence here, your company, your interest and your gracious acceptance of my invitation means a lot to me. I’ve been praying about it for a long time. It’s a great blessing.”
Assisting with facilitating the Sept. 13 Catholic-Muslim dialogue with the cardinal was Father Robert J. Robbins, director of the archdiocese’s Community Outreach Office and administrator of Holy Family parish in Manhattan.
Afterward, Father Robbins acknowledged the significance of the current events surrounding the dialogue, scheduled prior to the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. Embassy in Libya where four Americans perished.
In the attack, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, three other Americans and several Libyan soldiers were killed in the consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“Nothing could more dramatically underscore the need for continuing dialogue—not only among religious leaders but especially among the followers of every religion—so that the true message of faith is not distorted,” Father Robbins said.
The next Catholic-Muslim dialogue meeting is scheduled for January 2013 at New York Catholic Center.
Browse our archive of photos