Shortly after his election, Pope Francis, like the saint whose name he took, identified inter-religious dialogue as “a necessary condition for world peace,” noting that “Only through dialogue will we be able to eliminate intolerance and discrimination.” The pope called on Catholics to “not cease praying for it or collaborating with those who think differently.”
During 2017 the Diocese of Parramatta demonstrated its ongoing commitment to inter-religious dialogue in a number of ways. The Diocese’s Interfaith Commission co-sponsored with Muslim and other Christian groups the Australian premier of the film The Sultan and the Saint, recalling the historic meeting 800 years ago between St Francis of Assisi and the Sultan of Egypt, Malik Al-Kamil, in the midst of the conflict of the Fifth Crusade.
The Interfaith Commission participated in the Asia-Pacific Comparative Theology Conference at the Australian Catholic University (Melbourne) in July. Involving participants from the major world religions the conference heard from its keynote speaker, Professor Francis X. Clooney SJ (Harvard University), that comparative theology “involves learning from one another while remaining true to the beliefs and practices of one’s own religious community,” thus encouraging “interreligious literacy across all religious borders.”
In September the Commission, along with other religious organisations, co-hosted a public lecture at ACU’s Strathfield campus by the Emeritus President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald.
The Diocese, under the auspices of its Institute for Mission, produced a resource on inter-religious dialogue. The resource includes downloadable material under the title, Inter-religious Dialogue from a Catholic Perspective. Via this resource the Diocese hopes to better equip its members with an understanding of the basics of inter-religious dialogue and how to engage in such dialogue.
During Ramadan, Bishop Vincent participated in an Iftar meal with other religious leaders. In addressing the gathering, the bishop said Western Sydney was “blessed with Muslim communities as diverse as our nation itself,” affirming that “We stand united as citizens of Australia and as brothers and sisters of the human family. We stand in celebration of our common humanity and dedication to peace and justice for all.”
At the end of October, Bishop Vincent visited Blacktown Mosque with parishioners from Mary, Queen of the Family (Blacktown) as part of National Mosque Open Day. During the visit the bishop joined in sharing scripture and prayer.
Most recently, the Diocese’s endeavour to foster inter-religious dialogue has seen the relocation to the diocese of The Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations. The Centre, a work of the St Columban’s Mission Society, has taken up residence in a new office located in the Diocese’s Institute for Mission (Blacktown).
Fr Father Walter Fogarty PP, Chair of the Diocesan Interfaith Commission
This article first appeared in the December 2017 print edition of Catholic Outlook.
At the request of Most Rev Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Catholic Outlook was printed in December 2017 to connect the Diocese and showcase the good works across the Diocese’s many agencies and ministries.