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Partnership Is Still a Goal of the Catholic Church

September 10, 2000|ROGER MAHONY | Cardinal Roger Mahony is archbishop of Los Angeles

In the greater Los Angeles area, Roman Catholics have enjoyed a long-standing and valued relationship with Christians of other churches and peoples of other religious traditions. The fruits of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue in the Southland have been rich and rewarding for people in this region, throughout the nation and well beyond.

In light of the great progress made in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue in the greater Los Angeles area, it is discouraging to read last week's interpretations in the press, such as "Vatican Declares Catholicism Sole Path to Salvation," that followed the Catholic Church's declaration, "Dominus Iesus"--Lord Jesus--"On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church."

While clarifying the Roman Catholic Church's position, the declaration does in fact affirm that those who are not formally part of the Roman Catholic Church can, indeed, be saved ("Dominus Iesus," 20).

I would like to take this opportunity to reassure our partners in dialogue that our mutually beneficial conversations and joint pursuit of the truth will continue. I pledge my unyielding support for these efforts.

The declaration is best understood within the context of this ongoing dialogue. The purpose of the declaration is to clarify the Roman Catholic Church's own position in view of disagreements within the church itself, offering a firm critique of those theological views that appear to relativize the Christian faith and the Roman Catholic Church. Nowhere in the declaration is there criticism of the fruits of bilateral agreements or of new initiatives taken in inter-religious dialogue. Nor is there any indication that such dialogues or initiatives are to be halted.

The actions of Pope John Paul II himself have demonstrated his own profound respect for peoples and traditions other than Roman Catholic. His recent visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, his invitation to religious leaders to join him at Assisi in praying for world peace on Oct. 27, 1986, and his meeting on Sept. 16, 1987, here in Los Angeles with local Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu leaders are just three instances of his respect for the integrity of others and their religious traditions.

The tone of "Dominus Iesus" may not fully reflect the deeper understanding that has been achieved through ecumenical and inter-religious dialogues over these last 30 years or more. This deeper understanding has been prompted, in no small measure, by the initiatives of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). The council clearly affirmed the importance of religious freedom and called for deep and mutual respect among people of different religious traditions. The declaration can only be properly understood in light of these conciliar orientations and affirmations.

It is my sincere hope that our ongoing dialogue and partnership will proceed unabated. The Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles remains fully committed to ongoing dialogue and partnership. Only in this way can we continue to move beyond the tragic estrangement that has characterized so much of our past.

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