February 05, 2019

Mercy Sister Gives Major Presentation on Interreligious Dialogue

Carol Rittner rsm (Americas) was one of the featured speakers at Florida Atlantic University on Sunday, January 27, 2019. Her lecture, “Interreligious Dialogue in the 21st Century” was part of the 2019 Shemin Trialogue, Jews, Christians, and Muslims: Trialogue in the Age of Extremism, Promise and Peril. The lecture, to a standing room only audience in the auditorium of the Performing Arts Center at the university, was attended by people of all faiths, and none, interested in how we can move away from the dangerous political and social rhetoric and threats of our times when “the other" is often perceived as different, is ostracized, threatened and cast aside.

Using extensive research from her work on Jewish-Christian relations as well as the Holocaust, Carol spoke at length about the pernicious effects of the pre-Vatican II notion,“extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” – "outside the Church there is no salvation."  Carol outlined how the teachings of Vatican II opened the way for interreligious dialogue, drawing attention to how Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and today, Pope Francis I have encouraged dialogue with believers of various religions, especially Judaism and Islam. She also noted that Pope John Paul II – now St. John Paul II – was the first pope since St. Peter to visit a synagogue when he visited the synagogue in Rome in 1986.

“Interreligious dialogue,” she said, quoting the German-born Canadian theologian Gregory Baum, “has two interconnected purposes: (1) to overcome ignorance and prejudice, [thus] fostering mutual understanding among the religions, and (2) to discover the values held in common by these religions, making possible cooperation in support of the common good.” Today, Carol said, interreligious dialogue is part of the Roman Catholic Church’s mission of peace and reconciliation, which has not always been the case.

She also drew attention to conflicts in various parts of the world today where  too often religion is a destructive religious and political force propelling genocide and mass atrocity crimes, rather than preventing, or ameliorating them – places like the Central African Republic (CAR), where a deadly conflict between Muslims and Christians has claimed thousands of lives. "What", Carol asked, “is the value of religion . . . if it provides no defense against brutality and can even become a willing participant in genocide?”

Carol emphasized that all people of good will can work for peace. She ended her talk by quoting the Swiss Catholic theologian, Hans Kung: “No world peace without peace between religions. No peace between religions without dialogue between the religions.” She challenged everyone present, of whatever religious tradition, or none, to have an open mind and open heart, and to engage in interreligious dialogue with those who are of a different religious tradition, or none, in an effort, modest as it may be, to promote peace and reconciliation in our fragile and fragmented world.

Messages to: Carol Rittner rsm

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