Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Pastoral Statement on the Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue, and the Indigenous Peoples
Dialogue Towards Harmony
“Father, just as you are in me and I am in you; may they also be one in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
As our celebration of the 500 Years of Christianity in the country is fast approaching, we pay attention this year to ecumenism, interreligious dialogue and the indigenous peoples. We draw inspiration from the recent Apostolic visit of Pope Francis to the Middle East, Thailand, and Japan, which promoted a culture of encounter and solidarity. We humbly acknowledge the challenges of living among different faiths and religions as we strive towards unity and harmony in community. Our theme this year, Dialogue Towards Harmony, expresses well our Lord’s desire which we should appropriate for ourselves, “that all may be one” (John 17:21). An open, honest, respectful, loving dialogue of life, prayer and action, is the only way towards harmony in community. At stake are the great values of peace and harmony particularly in areas of armed conflict, solidarity in the struggle for social change, unity in healing social ills, integrity and social justice in our land.
Basis for Dialogue
As the church undertakes its evangelizing mission, the spirit of dialogue manifested as an attitude of respect and friendship should permeate all those activities constituting the evangelizing mission of the church (EA #9). The Incarnation of our Lord Jesus is ultimately an image and example of dialogue. God becoming man, sharing our human life and speaking in a human language to bring the Good News is an example of deep solidarity that moves the Church’s dialogue with peoples, cultures and religion.
Throughout history, there has been found among indigenous peoples a certain awareness of a hidden power, which lies behind the course of nature and the events of human life. At times there is present a latent recognition of a Supreme Being. This awareness and recognition results in a way of life that is imbued with a deep religious sense. The Church, therefore, urges the faithful to enter with prudence and charity into discussions and collaborations with people of other religions and cultures. Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among peoples of other faith and traditions, and also their social life and culture.
Interreligious dialogue does not merely aim at mutual understanding and friendly relations. It reaches a much deeper level, that of the spirit, where exchange and sharing consist in a mutual witness to one’s beliefs and a common exploration of one’s respective religious convictions.
Allow us to propose four forms of dialogue, without claiming to establish among them any order of priority:
- The dialogue of life, where people strive to live in an open and neighborly spirit, sharing their joys and sorrows, their human problems and preoccupations
- The dialogue of action, in which Christians and others collaborate for the integral development and liberation of people
- The dialogue of theological exchange, where specialists seek to deepen their understanding of their respective religious heritages, and to appreciate each other’s spiritual values
- The dialogue of religious experience, where persons, rooted in their own religious traditions, share their spiritual riches, for instance with regard to prayer and contemplation, faith and ways of searching for God or the Absolute
Ecumenism refers to the various efforts, movements or tendencies to come together by Christians of different Church traditions, journeying toward worldwide Christian unity or cooperation. Ecumenism comes from the Greek word “oikoumene” meaning, “the whole inhabited world” searching for unity among Christians (Eph 4:3).
Ours is a pluralistic society and a prime factor of our pluralism is the diversity of our cultural heritage. Lowland cultures have been heavily influenced by the three centuries of Spanish colonial rule, the Muslim peoples of the south by Islamic traditions, and the mountain tribes have retained their pre-Spanish characteristics (PCP II # 19, 1991).
Let us bear in mind that Inculturation is an expression of dialogue with indigenous people’s faith communities. Through inculturation, the church makes the gospel incarnate in different cultures and at the same time introduces peoples, together with their cultures, into her own community (RM #5).
The Call to Human Fraternity
The ultimate purpose of dialogue is for the whole humanity to live in harmony and fraternal love. This fraternal love will ensure peace in our land which seems to be elusive in reality.
This call to live in harmony asks us to love one another concretely. It calls us to respect each other with all our differences, to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Mark 12:31) and to protect the rights and freedoms of all humanity.
We are also being asked to practice human fraternity by embracing all human beings and trying to be united and treating each other with respect. This requires preserving and protecting the freedom that is a right of every person, where each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action.
Fraternal love also asks us to walk together in building a better world through preserving the name of justice and mercy, the foundations of prosperity and the cornerstone of faith. This means having the firm conviction that the authentic teachings of religions invite us to remain rooted always in the values of peace. It also asks of us to always be ready to ask forgiveness for the wrong that we have said, done and thought to others and to be ready to forgive others for the wrong that they have done to us.
May this season of advent, a season of hope, joy, love and peace keep us strong in faith and courageous enough to face the many challenges we encounter in life. We should never tire in striving to conserve and defend the values of mutual understanding, human fraternity and harmonious coexistence. We should always strive to re-establish wisdom, justice and love, and to reawaken religious awareness among young people so that the future generations may be protected from the pitfall of materialistic thinking and from unbridled greed and indifference that reinforce the law of force and not on the force of law.
May this year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue, and the Indigenous Peoples bring us more closely together so that all may be truly One in God.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
+ROMULO G. VALLES, D.D.
Archbishop of Davao
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
01 December 2019
First Sunday of Advent