Interreligious Dialogue: Neither Relativism nor Syncretism
Interview With Theologian Carmen Aparicio
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ROME, JAN. 23, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Interreligious dialogue is based on the pillars of identity and openness in order to combat relativism and syncretism, says a theologian.
This conviction was expressed by Carmen Aparicio, whose book \"Diálogo entre Religiones. Identidad y Apertura\" (Dialogue Between Religions: Identity and Openness) has just been published in Spain by PPC.
From 1989-1999 Aparicio worked in the Pontifical Council for the Laity. She has been an assistant professor of theology at the Gregorian University since 1994.
Q: Does interreligious dialogue move necessarily between identity and openness, as the title of your book suggests?
Aparicio: Identity and openness -- this is the title of the book because in fact they are two points on which the dialogue rests and which at the same time indicate the surmounting of two dangers: relativism and syncretism.
With identity I wish to express a necessary condition to establish an authentic dialogue. It is necessary to know one\'s faith, to know the ends -- let us not forget that dialogue can move on different levels and therefore pursue different ends -- to know from whence I move.
At the same time this identity calls for an attitude of openness to what is different, which leads to knowledge of what is new, to a confrontation of the different elements that come into play, to further reflection of what is already known.
Q: Christianity\'s relationship with other religions is not something new; in fact, it is constitutive of Christianity itself. Why is dialogue given such pre-eminence now?
Aparicio: Indeed, Christianity\'s relationship with the other religions is something that has always been present. It must be specified that in the book I refer to dialogue from its theological approach. This is not new either. What is new are the conditions in which dialogue is carried out.
In the new conditions of the world the relationship between individuals of different religions is more frequent, beginning in school. In virtue of respect, this calls for greater knowledge.
Also, in virtue of truth, the phenomena of terrorism or similar things call for greater knowledge of other religions that will make us surmount generalized condemnations or too easy identifications.
Together with this I would place so many studies that have been carried out by the different sciences on the religious phenomenon and the person. I believe they help us not to trivialize religions; on the contrary, they help us to understand them in all their depth and importance, also to know the person\'s inner being.
Q: The last Popes have insisted much on this topic. But there are many Catholics who do not follow them because they fear that Catholic identity will come off badly. What can you advise them?
Aparicio: One cannot generalize but I believe that what is most important is to give a name to fears and analyze their causes. These situations are real and I don\'t think that ignoring or ridiculing them will lead to resolving the problem.
The first thing is to realize that this also happens in all religions, it is not only with Christians.
I am not keen on giving advice generically, but I believe that one way to overcome fear is to know one\'s faith well. When I say to know one\'s faith I am not referring only to knowing doctrine, something which is necessary, but also and primarily to be able to give a reason for one\'s faith.
It is what Peter advised persecuted Christians. To give reason helps to clarify things, to look for the ultimate foundation, to recognize those firm points that are immovable, which does not mean that they cannot be studied further.