Engaging in Interreligious Dialogue to Become Better Persons"

Participants Speak on Jewish-Christian Seminar Organized by the Focolare Movement

Rome, (Zenit.org) Luca Marcolivio | 1027 hits

Interreligious dialogue cannot be reduced to simple mutual respect but must contribute to the real human and spiritual growth of believers. Taking place in this spirit at Castelgandolfo over these days (June 10-13) is the Jewish-Christian seminar Jews and Christians Together to Deepen Reflection on the Spiritual Dimension of the Dialogue.

The meeting is promoted by the Center for Interreligious Dialogue of the Focolare Movement together with the groups of Jewish representatives present, accompanied by Rabbis from Argentina, Uruguay, the United States and Italy.

Taking part in the seminar are 12 Jews and 15 Christians, who for years have participated in joint projects. One of the groups born for this purpose is that of Fordham University of New York, while in Argentina a book has come out recently on formation for dialogue, written by Rabbi Silvina Charmen and Francisco Canzani.

The contents of the initiative was illustrated yesterday afternoon, during a press conference held in the Marconi Room of Vatican Radio, introduced and moderated by Roberto Catalano, director of the Focolares’ Center for Interreligious Dialogue.

Amelia Uelmen, a Christian professor at Fordham University, has been involved for 12 years in the project. “Religious values can be a resource for the common good” and interreligious dialogue can be useful, for instance, in “work and in academic life,” she said.

New York Rabbi Eric Tzvi Blanchard, explained that the true essence of these meetings is “to let oneself be transformed by mutual dialogue.” To find together the way to God is as difficult “as climbing a mountain,” however, “together we can help one another to become the persons that we should be,” in a word, to become “better persons.”

For his part, Mario Burman, president of OJDI, the Jewish association for Inter-Confessional dialogue, expressed how this Jewish-Christian friendship evolved naturally from an initial diffidence to “full mutual trust.”

Uruguayan Rabbi Hodara Rafael explained how his country is in the vanguard of the Jewish-Christian dialogue, to the point that, already in 1958, a Rabbi, two Catholic priests and a Methodist pastor met in a cenacle which anticipated many similar initiatives of the post-Conciliar years.

Jews and Christians are “children of the same Father” and the key to their relation is their “reciprocal knowledge.” If on one hand it is necessary to overcome mutual prejudices, on the other it is necessary to ask oneself: “If in both religions, the commandment is love of neighbor, how can I love one I do not know?”, asked Rafael.

The experience of the Rabbi of Buenos Aires, Abraham Skorka, is significant, in particular for the writing of a book with Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Heaven and Earth (Mondadori, 2013). In this book, the topic of death emerges particularly, which Bergoglio saw above all as a “charge of the spirit to the Father.”

Interreligious dialogue means, in particular, “to hear the other, to understand who he is.” Insisting on the verb “to know,” Skorka pointed out how in Hebrew it is a synonym of “to love.”

On Wednesday morning,  the participants in the Jewish-Christian seminar attended Pope Francis’ general audience, at the end of which they were greeted by the Holy Father, who asked questions on the symposium, and asked them to pray for him. “He addressed to us the same request he made the first day of his pontificate,” commented Rabbi Skorka.