Christians, AG, Second Vatican Council, peoples, Christian, Nostra Aetate, mankind, Holy Spirit, religious traditions, Non-Christian Religions, Christian mission, reign of God, Pope John Paul II, Church, AA Apostolicam Actuositatem, Lord Christ, God's children, human values, Spirit, Pope John Paul, Charles de Foucauld, open dialogue, Vatican Council II Themes, Ecclesiam Suam, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Catholic Church
The Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian religion
s (Nostra Aetate) Paul, Bishop Servant of the Servants of God Together with the Fathers of the Sacred Council Commits to Permanent Record
Introduction L , our time, when day by day humankind is being drawn ever · closer together and the ties between different peoples are being strengthened, the Church is giving closer attention to her relationships to non-Christian religion
s. In her task of fostering unity and love among individuals, indeed among peoples, she considers above all in this Dec laration what human beings
have in common and what draws them toward fellowship. One is the community of all peoples, one their origin, for God made the whole human race to live on all the face of the earth (cf. Acts 17:26). One also is their final goal, God. His providence, his manifestations of goodness, his saving design extend to all (cf. Wis. 8:1; Acts 14:17; Rom 2:6-7; 1 Tim. 2:4), until that time when the elect will be united in the Holy City, the city ablaze with the glory of God, where the nations will walk in its light (cf. Apoc. 21:23f.). One expects from the various religions answers to the profound rid dles of the human condition, which today, even as of old, deeply stir human hearts: What is man? What is the meaning, the purpose of our life? What is moral good? What is sin? Whence suffering, and what pur pose does it serve? Which is the road to genuine happiness? What are death, judgment, and retribution after death? What, finally, is that ulti mate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence do we come, and where are we going? Variety of Non-Christian Religions 2. From ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that mysterious power abiding in the course of nature and in the happenings of human life; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of a Father. This perception and recognition penetrate their lives with a pro found religious sense. However, religions that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined con cepts and a more developed language. Thus, in Hinduism men and women contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust. Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which persons, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or to attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, su preme illumination. Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. Translated by Thomas F. Stransky, C.S.P. (1985) from the official Latin text, Nostra Aetate, with a few changes to avoid theexclusive language of theoriginal.
The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all. Indeed, the Church proclaims, and ever must proclaim, Christ as "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (john 14:6), in whom men and women may find the fullness of religious life, and in whom God has reconciled all things to himself (cf. 2 Cor. 5:18 19). The Church therefore exhorts her children to recognize, preserve, and foster the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the sociocultural values
found among the followers of other religions. This is done through dialogue and collaboration with them, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life. The Islamic Religion 3. The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in himself, merciful and all-powerful, the creator of heaven and earth (cf. St. Gregory VII, Letter XXI to Anzir [Nacir], king of Mauritania [PL 148, cols. 450fЈ.]), who has spoken to humans; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly even to his inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam is gladly linked, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, his virgin mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. Moreover, they look forward to the day of judgment when God will render what is deserved to all those raised up from the dead. For this reason, they value the moral life and worship God, especially through prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. In the course of centuries there have indeed arisen many quarrels and hostilities between Christians and Muslims. But now the Council pleads with all to forget the past, to make sincere efforts for mutual understanding
, and so to work together for the preservation and fostering of Social Justice
, moral welfare, and peace and freedom for all humankind. The Jewish Religion 4. As the Council searches into the mystery of the Church, it remembers the spiritual bonds which tie the people of the New Covenant to the offspring of Abraham. Thus the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God's saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already in the patriarchs, Moses, and the prophets. She professes that all who believe in Christ-Abraham's children according to the faith (cf. Gal. 3:7}--are included in this patriarch's call, and likewise that the salvation of the Church is symbolically prefigured in the exodus of the chosen people from the land of bondage. The Church, therefore, cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in his inexpressible mercy made the ancient covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well
International Bulletin of Missionary Research
cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles (cf. Rom. 11:17-24). Indeed, the Church believes that by his cross Christ, who is our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles, making the two one in himself (cf. Eph. 2:14-16). The Church keeps ever in mind the words of the Apostle about his kinsmen: "Theirs is the sonship and the glory and the covenant and the law and the worship and the promises; theirs are the fathers and from them is the Christ according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:4-5), the Son of the Virgin Mary. She also recalls that the apostles, the Church's foundation stones and pillars, as well as most of the early disciples who proclaimed the Gospel of Christ to the world, sprang from the Jewish people. As Holy Scripture testifies, Jerusalem did not recognize the time of her visitation (cf. Luke 19:44), nor did the Jews, in large number, accept the Gospel; indeed, not a few of them opposed its dissemination (cf. Rom. 11:28). Nevertheless, now as before, God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their fathers; he does not repent of the gifts he makes or of the calls he issues-such is the witness of the Apostle (cf. Rom. 11:28-29; also cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: A.A.S. 57 , 20). In com pany with the prophets and the same Apostle, the Church awaits that day, known to God alone, on which all peoples will address the Lord with a single voice and "serve him with one accord" (Zeph. 3:9; cf Is. 66:23; Ps. 65:4; Rom. 11:11-32). Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is then so rich, the Council wishes to foster and commend mutual understanding and esteem. This will be the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies and of brotherly dialogues. True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ (cf. John 19:6); still, what happened in his passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new People of God, the Jews should not be represented as rejected by God or accursed, as if this followed from Holy Scripture. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work and in preaching of the Word of God they teach nothing save what conforms to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ. The Church, moreover, rejects every persecution against any person. For this reason and for the sake of the patrimony she shares with the Jews, the Church decries hatreds, persecutions, and manifestations of anti-Semitism directed against Jews at any time and by anyone. She does so, not impelled by political reasons, but moved by the spiritual love of the Gospel. Besides, Christ underwent his passion and death freely and out of
infinite love because of the sins of humans in order that all might reach salvation. This the Church has always taught and teaches still; it is there fore the duty of the Church to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God's all-embracing love and as the fountain from which every grace flows. Universal Brotherhood, Excluding Every Discrimination 5. We cannot truly call upon God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any class of people created as all are in the image of God. Humankind's relation to God, the Father, and his relation to us, his brothers and sisters, are so linked together that Scripture says: "He who does not love does not know God" (1 John 4:8). No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between person and person or people and people insofar as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned. The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrim ination against persons or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition in life, or religion. On the contrary, following the footsteps of the holy apostles Peter and Paul
, the Council ardently implores the Chris tian faithful to "maintain good fellowship among the nations" (1 Pet. 2:12) and, if possible, to live for their part in peace with all (cf. Rom. 12:18), so that they may truly be sons and daughters of the Father who is in heaven (cf. Matt. 5:45). *** Each and every point stated in this Declaration has satisfied the Fathers of the sacred Council. And we, bytheauthoritybestowed on us byChrist, together with the venerable Fathers, approve it in the Holy Spirit
, we decree it and we enact it; and we order the promulgation, to God's glory, of what has been enacted synodically. Rome, in St. Peter's Basilica, October 28, 1965 Paul, Bishop of the Catholic Church (The Fathers' signatures follow)
'The Attitude of the Church towards the Followers of Other Religions: Reflections and Orientations on Dialogue and Mission Secretariat for Non-Christians
1 The Second Vatican Council
has marked a new landmark in the · relations of the church with the followers of other religions. Many Conciliar documents made explicit reference to them, and one in particular, the declaration Nostra Aetate, is entirely dedicated to "the relations between the Catholic church and non-Christian religions." 2. The rapid changes in the world and the deeper consideration of the mystery of the church as "the universal sacrament of salvation" (LG 48) have fostered this attitude towards non-Christian religions. "Thanks to the opening made by the Council, the church and all Christians have been able to come to a more complete awareness of the mystery of Christ" (RH 11). Reprinted from Bulletin: Secretariatus pro non Christianis (Vatican City), 56 (1984), XIX, 2.
3. This new attitude has taken the name of dialogue. This term, which is both the norm and ideal, was made known to the church by Paul VI in the encylical Ecclesiam Suam (6 August 1964). Since that time, it has been frequently used by the Council as well as in other church teachings. It means not only discussion, but also includes all positive and construc tive interreligious relations with individuals and communities of other faiths which are directed at mutual understanding and enrichment. 4. As an institutional sign of this desire to meet and relate to the followers of other religious traditions of the world, the same Pope Paul VI instituted, on Pentecost, 1964, in the climate of the Second Vatican Council, the Secretariat for non-Christians as an organism distinct from the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Its competence was de fined in the constitution Regimini Ecclesiae:
To search for methods and ways of opening a suitable dialogue with non-Christians. It should strive, therefore, in order that non Christians come to be known honestly and esteemed justly by Christians, and that in their tum non-Christians can adequately know and esteem Christian doctrine and life (AAS 59, 1967, pp. 919-920). 5. Today, 20 years after the publication of Ecclesiam Suam and its own foundation, the Secretariat, gathered in plenary assembly, has evaluated the experiences of dialogue which are occurring everywhere in the church. It has reflected on the church's attitudes towards other believers, and especially on the relationship which exists between dialogue and mission. 6. The theological vision of this document is inspired by the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent magisterium. A further study
in depth by theologians remains, however, both desirable and necessary.
therefore "missionary by its very nature" (AG 2; cf. also 6, 35, 36). For every Christian, the missionary duty is the normal expression of his lived faith. 11. "The mission of the church is carried out by means of that activity through which, in obedience to Christ's command and moved by the grace and love of the Holy Spirit, the church makes itself fully present to all persons and peoples ..." (AG 5). The task is one but comes to be exercised in different ways according to the conditions in which mission unfolds. "These circumstances depend sometimes on the church itself, sometimes on the peoples or groups or individuals to whom the mission is directed.... The appropriate actions or tools must be brought to bear on any given circumstances or situations.... The special end of this missionary activity
is the evangelization and the foundation of the church among peoples or groups in which it has not yet taken root" (AG 6). Other passages of the same Council have stressed that the mission of the church is also to work for the extension of the Kingdom and its values among all men and women. (cf LG 5, 9, 35; GS 39, 40-45, 91, 92; UR 2; DH 14; AA 5).
"The life of Jesus con tains all the elements of mission." Drawn from and enriched by experience, this reflection is mainly pastoral in character. It intends to encourage behavior formed by the Gospel in its encounters with believers of other faiths with whom Christians live in the city, at work, and in the family. 7. This document, therefore, is proposed in order to help Christian com munities and especially their leaders to live according to the directives of the Council. It offers elements of a solution to the difficulties which can arise from the duties of evangelization and dialogue which are found together in the mission of the church. Through this document, the mem bers of other religions might also come to understand better how the church views them and how it intends to behave towards them. 8. Many Christian Church
es have had similar experiences in their en counters with other believers. Within the ambit of its Unit I on "Faith and Witness," the World Council of Churches has a sub-unit for "Dia logue with People of Living Faiths and Ideologies." With this latter body, the Secretariat for non-Christians has stable and fraternal contacts of con sultation and collaboration. I Mission 9. God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). This saving love of God has been revealed and communicated to mankind in Christ and is present and active throughout the world by means of the Holy Spirit. The church is the living sign of that love in such a way as to render it the norm of life for all. This mission, Christ's own, is one of love because in him it finds its source, goal, and way of proceeding (cf. AG 2, 5, 12; EN 26). Each aspect and activity of the church's mission must therefore be imbued with the spirit of love if it is to be faithful to Christ who commanded the mission and continues to make it possible throughout history. 10. The church, as the Council has stressed, is a messianic people, a visible assembly and spiritual community, and a pilgrim people who go forward together with all of mankind with whom they share the human experience
. They ought to be the leaven and a "soul" for society as it is to be renewed in Christ and transformed into the family of God (cf. LG 9; GS 9, 40). This messianic people has as its law "the new com mandment to love as Christ has loved us and as its goal the kingdom of God
which was already begun by Him" (LG 9). The pilgrim church is
12. The different aspects and manners of mission have been broadly delineated by the Second Vatican Council. The acts and documents of subsequent ecclesiastical teaching, such as the Bishops' Synod on Social Justice (1971) and those dedicated to evangelization (1974)and catechetics (1977), numerous addresses of Pope Paul VI and John Paul II, and state ments of the episcopal conferences of Asia, Africa, and Latin America
have developed various aspects of conciliar teaching, adding, for example, "as an essential element of the mission of the church and indissolubly connected to it "(RH 15) the commitment to mankind, to social justice, to liberty and the rights of man, and the reform of unjust social structure
s. 13. Mission is thus presented in the consciousness of the church as a single but complex and articulated reality. Its principal elements can be mentioned. Mission is already constituted by the simple presence and living witness
of the Christian life (cf. EN 21), although it must be rec ognized that "we bear this treasure in earthen vessels" (2 Cor. 4:7). Thus the difference between the way the Christian appears existentially and that which he declares himself to be is never fully overcome. There is also the concrete commitment to the service of mankind and all forms of activity for social development
and for the struggle against poverty and the structures which produce it. Also, there is liturgical life and that of prayer and contemplation, eloquent testimonies to a living and liber ating relationship with the active and true God who calls us to His king dom and to His glory. (cf. Acts 2:42). There is, as well, the dialogue in which Christians meet the followers of other religious traditions in order to walk together towards truth and to work together in projects of common concern. Finally, there is announcement and catechesis in which the good news of the Gospel is proclaimed and its consequences for life and culture are analyzed. The totality of Christian Mission
embraces all these ele ments. 14. Every local church
is responsible for the totality of mission. Moreover, every Christian, by virtue of his faith and baptism, is called to carry out to some degree the whole mission of the church. The needs of the situ ation, the particular position of the people of God, and an individual's personal charisma dispose the Christian to direct his efforts principally to one or another aspect of that mission. 15. The life of Jesus contains all the elements of mission. In the Gospels, Jesus is shown in silence, in action, in prayer, in dialogue, and in teaching. His message is inseparable from his deeds; he announces God and His reign not only by word but by his deeds and works which complete his preaching. Accepting contradiction, failure, and death, his victory passes through the gift of life. Everything in him is the means and way of revelation and salvation (cf. EN 6-12); everything is the expression of his love (cf. John 3:16; 13:1; 1 John 4: 7-19). Christians ought to act in the same way: "By this will they know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." 16. Moreover, the New Testament gives a composite yet differentiated picture of mission. There is a plurality of services and functions which
International Bulletin of Missionary Research
arise from a variety of charisms (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28-30; Eph. 4:11-12; Rom. 12:6--8). S1. Paul himself noted the particular character of his missionary vocation when he declared that he was not sent by Christ to baptize but to announce the Gospel (1 Cor. 1:17). For this reason, alongside the "apostles," the "prophets," and the "evangelists," we find those who are called to deeds for the community and for the assistance of those who suffer. There are the tasks of families, of husbands, of wives, and of children. There are the duties of masters and servants. Each person has a task of particular witness in society. The First Letter of Peter, sent to Christians living in situations of diaspora, gives indications which never cease to surprise by their relevance for today. A passage of this letter was cited by Pope John Paul II in 1979 to the Catholic community of Ankara as "the golden rule of contacts between Christians and their fellow citizens of other faiths: 'Revere the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope which is in you. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a dear conscience' " (1 Pt. 3:15-16).
moment, but arises from reasons which experience and reflection, and even the difficulties themselves, have deepened. 21. The church opens itself to dialogue through fidelity to man. In every person and in every human group there is the aspiration and the need to be considered responsible subjects and to be able to act as such. This The abbreviations in this article
refer to the following church documents, the Latin designation for each docu ment being the first two words of the document and hence its official title .-Eos. AA Apostolicam Actuositatem. "Decree on the Aposto late of the Laity" (1965) AAS Acta Apostolicae Sedis. (Vatican publication of papal documents)
17. Among the many examples which could be drawn from the history of Christian mission, the norms given by S1. Francis of Assisi, in the ''Regola non bollata" of 1221, are significant. The friars who "through divine inspiration would desire to go among the Muslims ... can estab lish spiritual contact with them [Muslims] in two ways: a way which does not raise arguments and disputes, but rather they should be subject to every human creature for the love of God and confess themselves to be Christians. The other way is that when they see that it would be pleasing to the Lord, they should announce the word of God." Our own century has seen the rise and affirmation, especially in the Islamic world, of the experience of Charles de Foucauld, who carried out mission in a humble and silent attitude of union with God, in communion with the poor, and in universal brotherhood.
AG Ad Gentes. "Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity" (1965) CIC Codex Juris Canonici. (Code of Canon Law) OH Dignitatis Humanae. "Declaration on Religious Liberty" (1965) EN Evangelii Nuntiandi. "Evangelization in the Mod ern World" (1975) ES Ecclesiam Suam. "Encyclical on Vatican Council II Themes" (1964)
18. Mission must always revolve about man in full respect for his free dom. For this reason, the Second Vatican Council, while having affirmed for the whole church the necessity and urgency of announcing Christ, "the light of life," with all apostolic faithfulness and fortitude, even, when necessary, to the shedding of one's own blood (DH 14), confirms the need to promote and respect the true freedom of the other person, rejecting any form of coercion whatsoever most especially in the religious sphere. "Truth, however, is to be sought in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication, and dialogue. In the course of these, men explain to one another the truth they have discovered or claim to have discovered in order to help one another in their search for the truth. Moreover, as truth is discovered, it is by personal assent that men are to adhere to it" (DH 3). "In spreading religious faith and introducing religious practices, everyone ought at all times to refrain from any manner of action which could seem to carry a hint of coercion or of a kind of persuasion that would be dishonorable or unworthy, especially when dealing with poor or uneducated people. Such a manner of action would have to be con sidered an abuse of one's right and a violation of the rights of others" (DH 4). 19. This respect for every person ought to characterize the missionary activity of the church today (cf. ES 77; AAS 1964, pp. 642-643; EN 79-80; RH 12). "Man is the first path which the church ought to traverse in carrying out its mission" (RH 14). These values, which the church con tinues to learn from Christ its teacher, should lead the Christian to love and respect all that is good in the culture and the religious commitment of the other. "It concerns respect for everything which the Spirit, who blows where he wills, has produced in man" (RH 12; cf. EN 79). The fact that Christian mission can never be separated from love and respect for others is proof for Christians of the place of dialogue within that mission. II Dialogue A. Foundations 20. Dialogue does not grow out of the opportunism of the tactics of the
GS Gaudium et Spes. "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World" (1965) LG Lumen Gentium. "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church" (1964) NA Nostra Aetate. "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions" (1965) OT Optatam Totius. "Decree on Priestly Formation" (1965) RH Redemptor Hominis. "Encyclical on Redeeming Humanity" (1979) UR Unitatis Redintegratio. "Decree on Ecumenism" (1964) is the case whether one regards the need to receive or, even more, when one is conscious of possessing something which is to be communicated. As the human sciences have emphasized, in interpersonal dialogue one experiences one's own limitations as well as the possibility of over coming them. A person discovers that he does not possess the truth in a perfect and total way but can walk together with others towards that goal. Mutual affirmation, reciprocal correction, and fraternal exchange lead the partners in dialogue to an ever greater maturity which in turn generates interpersonal communion. Religious experiences and outlooks can themselves be purified and enriched in this process of encounter. The dynamic of human encounter should lead us Christians to listen to and strive to understand that which other believers communicate to us in order to profit from the gifts which God bestows so generously. Socio-cultural changes in the world, with their inherent tensions and difficulties, as well as the growing interdependence in all sectors of society necessary for living together, for human promotion, and, above all, for pursuing the demands of peace, all render a dialogical style of human relationship
s today ever more urgent. 22. The church, however, feels itself called to dialogue principally because of its faith. In the Trinitarian mystery, Christian revelation allows us to
glimpse in God a life of communion and interchange. In God, the Father, we contemplate a pervasive love unlimited by space and time. The universe and history are filled with His gifts. Every reality and every event are surrounded by His love. In spite of the some times violent manifestation of evil, in the vicissitudes in the life of each individual and every people there is present the power of grace with elevates and redeems. The church has the duty of discovering and bringing to light and fullness all the richness which the Father has hidden in creation and history, not only to celebrate the glory of God in its liturgy but also to promote among all mankind the movement of the gifts of the Father.
social life by the various exchanges and enterprises of human liv ing. Thus, they ought to know well the religious and cultural tra ditions of others, happy to discover and ready to respect seeds of the Word which are hidden in them.... As Christ himself, ... so also His disciples should know the people among whom they live and should establish contact with them, to learn by sincere and patient dialogue what treasures a bountiful God has distributed among the nations of the earth. At the same time, let them try to illuminate these treasures with the light of the gospel, to set them free, and to bring them under the dominion of God their Savior (AG 11; cf. AG 41; AA 14, 29).
23. In God the Son we are given the World and Wisdom in whom every thing was already contained and subsisting even from the beginning of time. Christ is the Word who enlightens every person because in Him is manifested at the same time the mystery of God and the mystery of mankind (cf. RH 8, 10, 11, 13). He is the redeemer present with grace in every human encounter, to liberate us from our selfishness and to make us love one another as he has loved us. As Pope John Paul II has said: Man-s-every man without any exception whatever-has been redeemed by Christ, and because with man-with each man without any exception whatever-Christ is in a way united, even when man is unaware of it: "Christ, who died and was raised up for all, provides man"-each man and every man-"with the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme calling" (RH 14). 24. In God, the Holy Spirit, our faith allows us to perceive the force of life and movement and continuous regeneration (cf. LG 4) who acts in the depth of people's consciences and accompanies them on the secret path of hearts towards the truth (cf. GS 22). The Spirit also works "out side the visible confines of the Mystical Body" (RH 6; cf. LG 16; GS 22; AG 15). The Spirit both anticipates and accompanies the path of the church which, nevertheless, feels itself impelled to discern the signs of Her pres ence, to follow Her wherever She leads and to serve Her as a humble and discreet collaborator. 25. The reign of God is the final end of all persons. The church, which is to be "its seed and beginning" (LG 5, 9), is called from the first to start out on this path towards the kingdom and, along with the rest of humanity, to advance towards that goal. This duty includes the struggle against, and the victory over evil and sin, beginning always with oneself and embracing the mystery of the cross. The church is thus oriented towards God's reign until its fulfillment in the perfect communion of all mankind as brothers in God. Christ is the guarantee for the church and the world that the "last days" have already begun, that the final age of history is already fixed (LG 48), and that, therefore, the church is equipped and commissioned to work so that there come about the progressive fulfillment of all things in Christ. 26. This vision induced the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council to affirm that in the religious traditions of non-Christians there exist "ele ments which are true and good"(OT 16), "precious things, both reli gious and human" (GS 92), "seeds of contemplation" (AG 18), "elements of truth and grace" (AG 9), "seeds of the Word" (AG 11, 15), and "rays of the truth which illumines all mankind" (NA 2). According to explicit conciliar indications, these values are found pre served in the great religious traditions of humanity. Therefore, they merit the attention and the esteem of Christians, and their spiritual patrimony is a genuine invitation to dialogue (cf. NA 2, 3; AG 11), not only in those things which unite us, but also in our differences. 27. The Second Vatican Council has thus been able to draw consequences of a concrete obligation, which it expresses in the following terms: That they may be able to give this witness to Christ fruitfully, [Christians] ought to be joined to the people of their time by esteem and love, and acknowledge themselves to be members of the group of people among whom they live. Let them share in cultural and
B. Forms of Dialogue 28. The experience of recent years gives evidence of the many ways in which dialogue is expressed. The most important and typical forms which are listed below are seen as distinct from one another yet at the same time connected. 29. Before all else, dialogue is a manner of acting, an attitude and a spirit which guides one's conduct. It implies concern, respect, and hospitality towards the other. It leaves room for the other person's identity, his modes of expression, and his values. Dialogue is thus the norm and necessary manner of every form of Christian mission, as well as of every aspect of it, whether one speaks of simple presence and witness, service, or direct proclamation (CIC 787, no. 1). Any sense of mission not permeated by such a dialogical spirit would go against the demands of true humanity and against the teachings of the Gospel. 30. Every follower of Christ, by reason of his human and Christian vo cation, is called to live dialogue in his daily life, whether he finds himself in a majority situation or in that of a minority. He ought to bring the spirit of the Gospel into any environment in which he lives and works, that of family, social, educational, artistic, economic, or political life. Dia logue thus finds its place in the great dynamism of the church's mission. 31. A further level of dialogue is that of deeds and collaboration with others for goals of a humanitarian, social, economic, or political nature which are directed towards the liberation and advancement of mankind. This kind of dialogue often occurs today in the context of International Organization
s, where Christians and the followers of other religions con front together the problems of the world. 32. The field of collaboration can be extremely wide. Referring in partic ular to Muslims, the Second Vatican Council exhorts both parties to "forget the past" and to "defend and promote together social jus tice, moral values
, peace and liberty" (NA 3; cf. AG 11, 12 15, 21). In the same sense there are the statements of Pope Paul VI, especially in Ecclesiam Suam (ASS 56, 1964, p. 655), and of John Paul II in numerous meetings with the heads and representatives of various religions. The great prob lems with which humanity is struggling call on Christians to work together with other believers by virtue of their respective faiths. 33. Of particular interest is dialogue at the level of specialists, whether it be to confront, deepen, and enrich their respective religious heritages or to apply something of their expertise to the problems which must be faced by mankind in the course of its history. Such a dialogue normally occurs where one's partner already has his own vision of the world and adheres to a religion which inspires him to action. This is more easily accomplished in pluralistic societies where diverse traditions and ideologies coexist and sometimes come in contact. 34. In this type of encounter, the partners come to mutual understanding and appreciation of each other's spiritual values and cultural categories and promote communion and fellowship among people (cf. NA 1). The Christian in this manner can also work together for the evangelical trans formation of cultures (cf. EN 18-20, 63). 35. At a deeper level, persons rooted in their own religious traditions can share their experiences of prayer, contemplation, faith, and duty, as well as their expressions and ways of searching for the Absolute. This
International Bulletin of Missionary Research
type of dialogue can be a mutual enrichment and fruitful cooperation for promoting and preserving the highest values and spiritual ideals of man. It leads naturally to each partner communicating to the other reasons for his own faith. The sometimes profound differences between the faiths do not prevent this dialogue. Those differences, rather, must be referred back in humility and confidence to God who "is greater than our heart" (1John 3:20). In this way also, the Christian has the opportunity of offering to the other the possibility of experimenting in an existential way with the values of the Gospel. III Dialogue and Mission 36. The relationships between dialogue and mission are multiple. We dwell here on several aspects which at the present time have greater relevance because of the challenges and problems they pose and the attitude which they demand. A. Mission and Conversion 37. According to the Second Vatican Council, missionary proclamation has conversion as its goal: "that non-Christians be freely converted to the Lord under the action of the Holy Spirit who opens their hearts so that they may adhere to Him" (AG 13; CIC 787, no. 2). In the context of dialogue between believers of various faiths, one cannot avoid reflecting on the spiritual process of conversion. In biblical language and that of the Christian tradition, conversion is the humble and penitent return of the heart to God in the desire to submit one's life more generously to Him. All persons are constantly called to this conversion. In the course of this process, the decision may be made to leave one's previous spiritual or religious situation in order to direct oneself towards another. Thus, for example, from a particular love the heart can open itself to one that is more universal. Every authentic call from God always carries with it an overcoming of oneself. There is no new life without death, as the dynamic of the Paschal mystery shows (cf. GS 22). Moreover, every conversion "is the work of grace, in which a person ought to fully find himself again" (RH 12). 38. In this process of conversion, the law of conscience is sovereign, because "no one must be constrained to act against his conscience, nor ought he to be impeded in acting according to his conscience, es pecially in religious matters" (DH 3). 39. In the Christian view, the principal agent of conversion is not man, but the Holy Spirit. "It is He who drives one to announce the Gospel and in the depths of one's conscience makes one welcome and understand the word of salvation" (EN 75). It is He who determines the movement of hearts and gives rise to the act of faith in Jesus the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 2:4). The Christian is but a simple instrument and co-worker of God (cf. 1 Cor. 3:9).
40. In dialogue also, the Christian normally nourishes in his heart the desire of sharing his experience of Christ with his brother of another religion (cf. Acts 26:29; ES 46). On the other hand, it is natural that another believer would similarly desire to share his faith. B. Dialogue for the Building of God's Reign 41. God never ceases to reconcile persons to Himself by the work of His Spirit. The church relies on the promise made by Christ that the Spirit will guide it in history towards the fullness of truth (john 16:13). For this reason it goes out to meet individuals, peoples, and their cultures, aware that in every human community are found the seeds of goodness and truth, and conscious that God has a loving plan for every nation (Acts 17: 26-27). The church therefore wants to work together with all in order to fulfill this plan and by doing so recognize the value of the infinite and varied wisdom of God and contribute to the evangelization of cultures (cf. ES 18--20). 42. "We also tum our thoughts to all who acknowledge God and who preserve in their traditions precious elements of religion and humanity. We want open dialogue to compel us all to receive the inspirations of the Spirit faithfully and to measure up to them energetically. The desire for such dialogue, conducted with appropriate discretion and leading to truth by way of love alone, excludes nobody. We include in this those who respect high-minded human values without recognizing who the author of those values is, as well as those who oppose the church and persecute it in various ways. Since God the Father is the origin and purpose of all mankind, we are all called to be brothers and sisters. Therefore, if we have been summoned to the same destiny, which is both human and divine, we can and should work together without violence and deceit in order to build up genuine peace in the world" (GS 92; cf. also, the mes sages of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II for the World Day of Peace). 43. Dialogue thus becomes a source of hope and a factor of communion in mutual transformation. It is the Holy Spirit who directs the carrying out of God's design in the history of individuals and all humanity until the time when God's children who are dispersed by sin will be reunited as one (cf. John 11:52). 44. God alone knows those days, He to whom nothing is impossible, He whose mysterious and silent Spirit opens the paths of dialogue to indi viduals and peoples in order to overcome racial, social, and religious differences and to bring mutual enrichment. We live therefore in the age of the patience of God for the church and every Christian community, for no one can oblige God to act more quickly than He has chosen to do. However, before the new humanity of the 21st century
, the church should radiate a Christianity open to awaiting in patience the maturation of the seeds sown in tears and in trust (cf. James 5:7-8; Mark 4:26-30).