Theological Discussion: “Ecclesiology in the Inter-Religious Perspective”

Theological Discussion: “Ecclesiology in the Inter-Religious Perspective”

By the visitation and work of priest and doctor Peter Phan Dinh Cho, Professor of Georgetown University and former chair person of American Catholic theological Society, Pastoral Institute of HCM Archdiocese cooperated with Paul Nguyen Van Binh Club held a theological talk entitled: “Multi-Religions and Ecclesiological Mystery: “Ecclesiology in the Inter-Religious Perspective,” at Pastoral Institute of HCM Archdiocese from 15.00 to 17.30 o’clock in November 11th, 2012.

Fr. Cho started his talk by mentioning the Catholic history from the fourth century. When King Constantine and successive Emperor Theodosius acknowledged a religion of the Roman empire, Christianity had an attitude of eliminating other religions, especially Jewish. Christians saw other religions with a Christian view, thus there could not be humility and listening. The second Vatican Council was a fact and event of the Holy Spirit which helped the Church change their ways of looking other religions. The deep meaning of multi-religious event required us to review ourselves and renew our attitude to witness Good News. Nostra Aetate document although having 1,600 words helps Christians know real values of other religions. Together with believers from other religions, Christians have to respect, preserve and develop such values.

From 1972, in documents of inter-colleges of Asian bishops, the mission of Asian church is summarized in a word “dialogue.” The urgency of evangelization is not denied, but the way we bring Good News is dialoguing: 1/ Living and sharing with those who are around; 2/ cooperating with them to build a world of justice and peace; 3/ dialoguing theology; and 4/ sharing spiritual life.

The mission of Christians is to witness for the grace and presence of God and of heavenly Kingdom; in the other hand, their mission is not to have another topic, more lay people, or more fame. Inter-religious dialogue is not done in free time, but is a mission that all Christians need to carry. The attitude of pride when they contact other religious believers needs to be replaced by humility and listening.

Beside the speech of Fr. Cho, Fr. Francis Xavier Bao Loc added some ideas. First, dialogue is the nature of the Church and the identity of Christians. Second, through the Congress of God’s People in Vietnam (2010), Catholics understood an aspect that is less emphasized when the Church being a family aspect is presented. The Church is a family consisting of God’s children, a community of Christ’s disciples. When the Church is understood as a mysterious family, Christians consider that all human beings are their brothers and sisters. Third, ecclesiology always cooperated with Christology views the world as a human family that Jesus is the eldest Brother.

Sis. Mai Thanh also added: We need to become the people of humble dialogue, taking personal poverty to solve the poverty caused by social injustice, and following the two “overcoming” examples of Jesus: Giving up Himself at Jordan river and overcoming His passion at Golgotha.

Fr. Peter Phan Dinh Cho discussed with participants some topics that they are concerning.

Fr. Peter Nguyen Van Hien raised a question: “When we contact other religious believers, is there any common point among religions so that Christians can begin theological dialogue?”

Fr. Peter answered: In theological dialogue, Spirit is the starting point since the Spirit of God is present in any religions. Christians or others find God through Spirit. The role of the church in Vietnam is not to give Spirit to non-Christians, but name Spirit (Spirit exists in other religions): Spirit is “a gift of Resurrected Christ.” Accordingly Christians can continue telling about Jesus, about His church…

Executive director of Pastoral Institute of HCM Archdiocese ended the theological discussion, gave thanks to Fr. Cho, and wished to welcome him in another nearest time.