Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Power of Becoming a Church in Dialogue

By Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski

Our choice of words can make a profound difference.

Our posture can make a profound difference.

We as a Church have learned these lessons as we have engaged in dialogue with our fellow Christians for the past 50 years. When the words we use are harsh and judgmental, people don't stick around to hear what else we might have to say, even if it might be beneficial to them. When we assume a posture that is defensive and closed, people don't bother to approach us in the first place.

With its Decree on Ecumenism, issued 50 years ago this month, the Second Vatican Council transformed the Catholic Church into a Church of dialogue. Our focus shifted from the errors we saw  in other Christian traditions to an acknowledgement that the Holy Spirit is also working in the lives of these communities and that, yes, there are positive elements to them, even things Catholics can learn from them.

And thus it becomes imperative that we dialogue.

In 50 years of dialogue with other Christians, we have seen progress that would have been unimaginable before the Council:
The world of dialogue has received a real shot of adrenaline with Pope Francis, a man of dialogue to his core. The response to the world's challenges, Pope Francis said in Brazil last year, should be "dialogue, dialogue, dialogue."

"Dialogue between generations, dialogue with the people, because we are all people, the capacity to give and receive, while remaining open to the truth," Pope Francis said.

In this light, we see that dialogue is not merely a tool for different Christians and religions to better understand the truth of one another, but an answer to the call for the Church to go out from itself and bring Christ's mercy to people on the margins.

This is the power of being a Church in dialogue. The world of ecumenical relationships has seen the Holy Spirit at work time and again over the past 50 years. Now it is up to the Church to answer the call of Pope Francis, Blessed Paul VI and the Council, to take this model and truly apply it to a dialogue with the whole world.

Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski is bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, and the new chairman of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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