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to the website of the Secretariat for
Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (SEIA), office for the Bishops
Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA). The website
contains important pastoral, academic, and historical resources of the work of the Secretariat and the Committee. BCEIA has an expansive
mandate to foster relationships with our sisters and brothers in Christ, as well as other people of faith from the various major religious traditions. The results of BCEIA
dialogues and conversations are available on the SEIA webpages. They will
inform you of the important progress of our work over the past fifty years,
as well as provide resources for various types of dialogue that you can use in
your parish and family.
Prior to Pope Francis' election in 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio co-authored a book, On Heaven and Earth, with his Jewish friend, Rabbi Abraham Skorka. In it, he describes what is required of us to engage more fully in dialogue:
Dialogue is born from an attitude of respect for the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say. It assumes that there is room in the heart for the person's point of view, opinion, and proposal. To dialogue entails a cordial reception, not a prior condemnation. In order to dialogue, it is necessary to know how to lower the defenses, open the doors of the house, and offer human warmth.
I wish to stress to you the importance of building relationships—which Pope Francis calls a culture of encounter. Sadly, during this moment in history, fear and dehumanizing rhetoric are being used to undermine our sense of fellowship and community with those of different faiths. This is of utmost concern, as Christians and people of faith and good will are suffering throughout the world because of their response to God's call. The Gospel challenges us to cultivate attitudes of respect, assumptions of good will, and the creation of space within our hearts to receive our brothers and sisters in dialogue. In this way, we can counter those who wish to maintain a culture of fear and engage the journey to unity.
"When we pray together and collaborate together in proclaiming the Gospel and in the service of others," as Pope Francis has reminded us time and again, we participate in the heart of the Catholic Church's ecumenical response to Jesus' prayer that "they all may be one" (JN 17:21), as well as live out the call of the Second Vatican Council for Catholics to be in relationship with people of other religious traditions, as outlined in the document Nostra Aetate.
I pray that we will model a life of dialogue and a culture of encounter encouraged by Pope Francis!
Faithfully Yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera
Chairman, Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
Bishop of Scranton
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