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Thailand

BISHOPS CALL FOR EPISCOPAL SOLIDARITY, COLLEGIALITY TO AVERT INTERRELIGIOUS CRISES

Updated: September 09, 2001 05:00 PM GMT
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Some Asian bishops have called for "episcopal solidarity and collegiality" to avert interreligious crises in Asia.

Local Churches have to "bear the brunt" when Vatican offices issue documents "without prior consultation with local ordinaries or episcopal conferences" they told fellow bishops in an Aug. 24 letter to the FABC central committee and episcopal conferences throughout Asia.

The letter also urged Asian Church leaders to "take up the question" with the appropriate Church authorities.

The bishops met Aug. 20-25 in Thailand to discuss important issues affecting interreligious dialogue and relations in Asia, including "Dominus Iesus: On the Unicity and the Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church," issued Sept. 5, 2000, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In some Asian countries, they said, "groups inimical to Christianity are making use of Vatican documents to attack the Church and to build a climate of suspicion and antipathy."

Citing the Church´s collective "responsibility" to avert such conflicts, they said that "an appeal to episcopal solidarity and collegiality" offers the "best" solution. "We leave it to your discretion to determine the best way to approach this question with the proper ecclesiastical authorities."

The bishops were attending the Fourth Formation Institute for Interreligious Affairs (FIRA IV) at the Redemptorist center in Pattaya, 150 kilometers southeast of Bangkok. It was organized by the Federation of Asian Bishops´ Conferences (FABC) Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (OEIA).

The FIRA IV final statement stressed that Churches in Asia "do not ignore the proclamation of the Good News," but are seeking "effective and culturally acceptable" ways of announcing Gospel values.

The statement noted that Dominus Iesus´ tone -- "tending toward the dogmatic and authoritarian" -- and the distinctions it drew between the Catholic Church and other Churches as well as other religions "tended to offend" and "to a great extent stand in the way of better relationships and hamper dialogue."

The Church leaders asked if such a document was "opportune" at a time when the general religious atmosphere around the globe "borders on the delicate and at times even explosive."

However, they acknowledged some positive aspects. "Far from denying the Church´s commitment to interreligious dialogue, ´Dominus Iesus´ affirms it as integral to the Church´s evangelizing mission," they said, adding that it "encourages theologians to seek answers to many unresolved issues."

In their final statement FIRA participants called for the promotion of a "culture of dialogue," stressing that that "while sharing our experience of Christ with others, we must be careful to avoid using exclusive language or to make normative claims."

They urged each diocese to establish a center for interreligious dialogue so that it can organize training courses, dialogue sessions and interfaith prayer meetings at various levels.

Seminaries and formation institutes, they added, should include courses on other religions and theology of interreligious dialogue, as well as organize exposure and live-in programs with people of other religions.

For the culture of dialogue to grow from below, Basic Human Communities or Basic Christian Communities should be used to promote dialogue of life and to cultivate other life-related programs, they said.

They also encouraged the establishment of Christian live-in meditation and spirituality centers.

FIRA IV participants also recommended that basic courses on all religions be offered in Catholic high schools and colleges "so that prejudices can be overcome and a respect for the beliefs and symbols of other religions can be cultivated in the younger generation."

END

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