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Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs


Featured Resource of the Month

U.S. Catholic/Muslim Relations

From 1996 to 2015 the USCCB maintained regional dialogues with important Islamic organizations that represent a large number of Muslims from the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and West Coast regions (i.e., the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California and the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County).  With the promulgation of Nostra Aetate (NA), which solemnly committed the Church to engage in dialogue with members of non-Christian religions, especially with those whose historical connection with the Catholic Church has been formative, i.e., Jews and Muslims, a whole new chapter of the Church's mission of engagement and encounter began in earnest. 

Immediately following the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the U.S. bishops established the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (SEIA) to carry out the mandate of NA.  While the first decades were focused on building and sustaining the ecumenical dialogues with other Christian communities, staff at the SEIA began in the 1980's to cultivate relations with non-Christians, including leaders from the Muslim organizations mentioned.  Eventually, the connections that were made by the bishops and staff of the SEIA made it possible to organize and establish formal dialogues at the regional levels.  These dialogues were founded to nourish the newly-formed relationships with Muslim leaders and, at the same time, to begin the process of theological exchange and, whenever possible, to collaborate on pastoral concerns of mutual interest.

Each of the dialogues focused on topics of interest unique to their regional members.  To highlight some of the accomplishments, one can point to the following: a seminal 2005 document on revelation (Midwest), a 2011 statement on marriage from Sunni and Catholic perspectives (Mid-Atlantic), a 2011 study of Catholics and Muslims together in the public square (Midwest), a 2013 study of the afterlife (West Coast), a 2014 discussion of Catholic Just War Theory and Islamic Jihad (West Coast).

Having moved from mere colleagues that did not know one another and, in many instances, did not understand even the rudiments of one another's faith tradition and history, to trusted friends and collaborators in theological and pastoral projects of mutual concern, the regional dialogues had by 2014 reached a level of maturity to advance their relationship from a regional to a national dialogue.  In May 2015, during a USCCB-sponsored commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC., a plenary session of the regional Catholic-Muslim dialogues was convened and, with a desire to bring greater public attention to the work of dialogue between the Church and the Muslim community in the U.S., the members and leaders voted unanimously to establish one, national dialogue.   The inaugural meeting was held in Chicago at the Catholic Theological Union and was chaired by H.E. Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago and Dr. Sayyid Syeed of ISNA.

Since 1996, Muslim-Catholic dialogue has led the way toward understanding and friendship between our two vibrant communities.  Our two communities still have a long way to go.  As we come to appreciate and engage each other in the ways of faith, society around us benefits.  Friendship moves us to address together issues and problems in our local cities and the nation.  Muslims and Catholics can work together to bring common faith and family values to an increasingly secularized world.   With the tensions, often times unfounded, that surround Muslims, the Catholic Church can play a positive role in advancing a dialogue that will engender respect and understanding, as our bishops made plain with this 2014 statement "Dialogue with Muslims."

500th Anniversary of Reformation

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. 

A resource list was compiled for those looking for ways to commemorate the Reformation and work for greater Christian Unity.  

Current Issues and recent news

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis have published a joint statement for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

Read the statement Between Jerusalem and Rome: Reflections on 50 Years of Nostra Aetate published by the Conference of European Rabbis, the Rabbinical Council of America and approved by Rabbi David Baruch Lau, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel and presented on August 31, 2017 to Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Starting in 1989, the Orthodox Church has proclaimed September 1st the "World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation." In 2015, Pope Francis announced the establishment of September 1st as a day of prayer for Catholics as well.  SEIA encourages you to use this day of prayer for ecumenical collaboration and reflection, especially with our Orthodox sisters and brothers.

In light of recent tragic events throughout the world, the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs wishes to reaffirm the Bishops' Committee statement from 2014, which calls for a consistent ethic of dialogue and condemns religious violence.

Drawing on 50 years of national and international dialogue, Lutherans and Catholics together have issued the "Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry and Eucharist," a unique ecumenical document that marks a pathway toward greater visible unity between Catholics and Lutherans.

Who Can go to Holy Communion?

For Our Fellow Christians:

We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ's prayer for us "that they may all be one" (Jn 17:21).

Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 §4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of Communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 §3).

For Non-Christians:

We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.

For more information, please see Guidelines for the Reception of Communion.

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