In my view, Benedict XVI provides much-needed clarity about inter-religious dialogue and its goals. In an earlier article on The Catholic Thing, I wrote of Joseph Ratzinger’s view of the dialogue of the religions. Here, I turn to consider Benedict’s view of inter-religious dialogue in his 2012 Christmas address.
Although he was committed to dialogical relations among the religions, Benedict explicitly excludes religious relativism, indifferentism, and syncretism from his understanding. He, accordingly, sees this relation as a truth-seeking enterprise rather than just about “learning to accept the [religious] other in his otherness and the otherness of his thinking,” as he puts it. Furthermore, following St. John Paul II (in his 1990 encyclicalRedemptoris missio), he rejects the supplanting of evangelization with inter-religious dialogue, and, therefore, prioritizes the call of Jesus (John 1:39) – “Come and see!” – of proclamation and evangelization.
According to Benedict, a dialogical relation among the religions is multi-dimensional. First, it is about learning to co-exist, about being together, that is, about peace and justice, “shared responsibility for society, for the state, for humanity.” To achieve that end, Benedict affirms the necessity of a dialogue among the religions. Second, although a hermeneutic of justice and peace is a guiding principle of this dialogical relation, says Benedict, it “is bound to pass beyond the purely pragmatic to an ethical quest for the values that come before everything.” He adds, “In this way what began as a purely practical dialogue becomes a quest for the right way to live as a human being.”
Read more at The Catholic Thing.