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Innovations of the Holy Spirit during the Second Vatican Council
began to lay the foundation for a new era in the Church’s relationship
with the peoples and communities of non-Christian religions. The
movement was both unexpected and surprising to many at the time. The Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligous Affairs now engages with interreligious partners including:
In today’s increasingly globalized world, as the vast human
society finds itself everyday more intimately connected across
geographical, cultural, and religious boundaries, one cannot underestimate the impact of the Church’s interreligious undertaking.
The world’s estimated 1.5 billion Catholics face the challenges of
modernity alongside neighbors of every creed. It is our hope and our goal to foster bonds of friendship, mutual understanding, and
constructive collaboration among the world’s religions in the genuine
service of mankind.
Among the many developments that emerged out of the Second Vatican Council were the Church's Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, and the establishment of the Pontifical Secretariat for Non-Christians, now known as the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue."Dear friends, let our sincere dialogue and cooperation inspire all people to ponder the deeper questions of their origin and destiny. May the followers of all religions stand together in defending and promoting life and religious freedom everywhere." -Pope Benedict XVI, Washington DC, April 2008
In a spirit of obedience to the Council, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops expanded its ecumenical work to include dialogue with non-Christian religions in 1966. The name of the related bishops' committee changed to the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (CEIA). The new name not only reflected the activities undertaken in conjunction with the American Jewish community, but also the task of fostering contacts and relationships with Muslims and other major religious communities in the U.S.
Over the years ahead the Committee developed relationships and joint projects with the American Muslim Council, the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, Imam W. D. Mohammed's Muslim American Society, the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California and others. From 1987, the amount of work in interreligious relations increased significantly with the hiring of staff especially oriented for that work. By 1999, three regional dialogues with Muslims had been established, each with a Catholic bishop co-chairman, and bishops and staff were participating in several other projects with Hindus and Buddhists.
Beginning in 2003, the Committee sponsored a series of institutes for bishops on interreligious relations, focusing initially on Islam and Catholic-Muslim relations. Today, the Committee is engaged in on-going or ad hoc consultations with national representatives of the Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu traditions, and participates in a widening range of interreligious networks and activities of religious, social, academic or cultural impact.
"In our times, when every day men are being drawn closer together and the ties between various peoples are being multiplied, the Church is giving deeper study to her relationship with non-Christian religions. In her task of fostering unity and love among men, and even among nations, she gives primary consideration in this document to what human beings have in common and to what promotes fellowship among them.”---Nostra Aetate, Documents of the Second Vatican Council, October 28, 1965
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