DIALOGUE AND PROCLAMATION
Reflection And Orientations On Interreligious Dialogue
1. INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE
1. A CHRISTIAN APPROACH TO RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS
14. Positive evaluation of religious traditions
A just appraisal of other religious traditions normally presupposes close contact with them. This implies, besides theoretical knowledge, practical experience of interreligious dialogue with the followers of these traditions. Nevertheless, it is also true that a correct theological evaluation of these traditions, at least in general terms, is a necessary presupposition for interreligious dialogue. These traditions are to be approached with great sensitivity, on account of the spiritual and human values enshrined in them. They command our respect because over the centuries they have borne witness to the efforts to find answers "to those profound mysteries of the human condition" (NA 1) and have given expression to the religious experience and they continue to do so today.
15. Orientations of Vatican II
The Second Vatican Council has given the lead for such a positive assessment. The exact meaning of what the Council affirms needs to be carefully and accurately ascertained. The Council reaffirms the traditional doctrine according to which salvation in Jesus Christ is, in a mysterious way, a reality open to all persons of good will. A clear enunciation of this basic conviction in Vatican II is found in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes. The Council teaches that Christ, the New Adam, through the mystery of his incarnation, death and resurrection, is at work in each human person to bring about interior renewal.
"This hold true not for Christians only but also for all persons of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. For since Christ died for all, and since all are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the Paschal mystery" (GS 22).
16. The effects of divine Grace
The Council proceeds further. Making its own the vision and the terminology of some early Church Fathers, Nostra Aetate speaks of the presence in these traditions of "a ray of that Truth which enlightens all" (NA 2). Ad Gentes recognizes the presence of "seeds of the word", and points to "the riches which a generous God has distributed among the nations" (AG 11). Again, Lumen Gentium refers to the good which is "found sown" not only "in minds and hearts", but also "in the rites and customs of peoples" (LG 17).
17. The action of the Holy Spirit
These few references suffice to show that the Council has openly acknowledged the presence of positive values not only in the religious life of individual believers of other religious traditions, but also in the religious traditions to which they belong. It attributed these values to the active presence of God through his Word, pointing also to the universal action of the Spirit: "Without doubt," Ad Gentes affirms, "the Holy Spirit was at work in the world before Christ was glorified" (No. 4). From this it can be seen that these elements, as a preparation for the Gospel (cf. LG 16), have played and do still play a providential role in the divine economy of salvation. This recognition impels the Church to enter into "dialogue and collaboration" (NA 2; cf. GS 92-93): "Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral good found among non-Christians, as well as their social and cultural values" (NA 2).
18. The role of the Church's activity
The Council is not unaware of the necessity of the missionary activity of the Church in order to perfect in Christ these elements found in other religions. The Council states very clearly: "Whatever truth and grace are to be found among the nations, as a sort of secret presence of God, this activity frees from all taint of evil and restores to Christ its Maker, who overthrows the devil's domain and wards off the manifold malice of vice. And so, whatever good is found to be sown in the hearts and minds of men, or in the rites and cultures peculiar to various peoples, is not lost. More than that, it is healed, ennobled, and perfected for the glory of God, the same of the demon, and the bliss of men" (AG 9).
19. The history of God's salvific action
The Old Testament testifies that from the beginning of creation God made a Covenant with all peoples (Gn 1:11). This shows that there is but one history of salvation for the whole of humankind. The Covenant with Noah, the man who "walked with God" (Gn 6:9), is symbolic of the divine intervention in the history of the nations. Non-Israelite figures of the Old Testament are seen in the New Testament as belonging to this history of salvation. Abel, Enoch and Noah are proposed as models of faith (cf. Heb 11:4-7). It is this history of salvation which sees its final fulfillment in Jesus Christ in whom is established the new and definitive Covenant for all peoples.
20. Beyond the confines of the Chosen People
The religious consciousness of Israel is characterized by a deep awareness of its unique status as God's Chosen People. This election, accompanied by a process of formation and continuous exhortations to preserve the purity of monotheism, constitutes a mission. The prophets continually insist on loyalty and fidelity to the One True God and speak about the promised Messiah. And yet these prophets, particularly at the time of the Exile, bring a universal perspective, for God's salvation is understood to extend beyond and through Israel to the nations. Thus Isaiah foretells that in the final days the nations will stream to the house of the Lord, and they will say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths" (Is 52:10). In the Wisdom literature also, which bears witness to cultural exchanges between Israel and its neighbours, the action of God in the whole universe is clearly affirmed. It goes beyond the boundaries of the Chosen People to touch both the history of nations and the lives of individuals.
21. The universal mission of Jesus
Turning to the New Testament, we see that Jesus professes to have come to gather the lost sheep of Israel (cf. Mt 15:24) and forbids his disciples for the moment to turn to the Gentiles (cf. Mt 10:5). He nevertheless displays an open attitude towards men and women who do not belong to the chosen people of Israel. He enters into dialogue with them and recognizes the good that is in them. He marvels at the centurion's readiness to believe, saying that he has found no such faith in Israel (cf. Mt 8:5-13). He performs miracles of healing for "foreigners" (cf. Mk 7:24-30; Mt 15:21-28), and these miracles are signs of the coming of the Kingdom. He converses with the Samaritan woman and speaks to her of a time when worship will not be restricted to any one particular place, but when true worshippers will "worship the Father in spirit and truth" (Jn 4:23). Jesus is thus opening up a new horizon, beyond the purely local, to a universality which is both Christological and Pneumatological in character. For the new sanctuary is now the body of the Lord Jesus (cf. Jn 2:21) whom the Father has raised up in the power of the Spirit.
22. The announcement of the Kingdom of God
Jesus' message, then, proved by the witness of his life, is that in his own person the Kingdom of God is breaking through to the world. At the beginning of his public ministry, in Galilee of the nations, he can say: "The time has come, and the Kingdom of God is close at hand." He also indicates the conditions for entry into this Kingdom: "Repent and believe the Good News" (Mk 1:15). This message is not confined only to those who belong to the specially chosen people. Jesus in fact explicitly announces the entry of the Gentiles into the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt 8:10-11; Mt 11:20-24; Mt 25:31-32,34), a Kingdom which is to be understood as being at one and the same time historical and eschatological. It is both the Father's Kingdom, for the coming of which it is necessary to pray (cf. Mt 6:10), and Jesus' Kingdom, since Jesus openly declares himself to be king (cf. Jn 18:33-37). In fact in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, we have the fullness of revelation and salvation and the fulfillment of the desires of the nations.
23. The calling of all peoples
References in the New Testament to the religious life of the Gentiles and to their religious traditions may appear to be contrasting, but can be seen as complementary. There is, on the one hand, the negative verdict of the Letter to the Romans against those who have failed to recognize God in his creation and have fallen into idolatry and depravity (cf. Rm 1:18-32). On the other hand, the Acts testify to Paul's positive and open attitude towards the Gentiles, both in his discourse to the Lycaonians (cf. Ac 14:8-18) and in his Areopagus speech at Athens, in which he praised their religious spirit and announced to them the one whom unknowingly they revered as the "unknown God" (cf. Ac 17:22-34). Nor must it be forgotten that the Wisdom tradition is applied in the New Testament to Jesus Christ as the Wisdom of God, the Word of God that enlightens every man (cf. Jn 1:9) and who in his Incarnation pitches his tent among us (cf. Jn 1:14).
24. The Fathers of the first centuries
The post-Biblical tradition also contains contrasting data. Negative judgements on the religious world of their time can easily be gleaned from the writings of the Fathers. Yet the early tradition shows a remarkable openness. A number of Church Fathers take up the sapiential tradition reflected in the New Testament. In particular, writers of the second century and the first part of the third century such as Justin, Iranaeus and Clement of Alexandria, either explicitly or in an equivalent way, speak about the "seeds" sown by the Word of God in the nations(10). Thus it can be said that for them, prior to and outside the Christian dispensation, God has already, in an incomplete way, manifested himself. This manifestation of the Logos is an adumbration of the full revelation in Jesus Christ to which it points.
25. The theology of history
In fact, these early Fathers offer what may be called a theology of history. History becomes salvation history, inasmuch as through it God progressively manifests himself and communicates with humankind. This process of divine manifestation and communication reaches its climax in the incarnation of the Son of God in Jesus Christ. For this reason, Irenaeus distinguishes four "covenants" given by God to the human race: in Adam, in Noah, in Moses, and in Jesus Christ(11). The same patristic current, whose importance is not to be underestimated, may be said to culminate in Augustine who in his later works stressed the universal presence and influence of the mystery of Christ even before the Incarnation. In fulfillment of his plan of salvation, God, in his Son, has reached out to the whole of humankind. Thus, in a certain sense, Christianity already exists "at the beginning of the human race"(12).
26. The contribution of the Magisterium
It was to this early Christian vision of history that the Second Vatican Council made reference. After the Council, the Church's Magisterium, especially that of Pope John Paul II, has proceeded further in the same direction. First the Pope gives explicit recognition to the operative presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the members of other religious traditions, as when in Redemptor Hominis he speaks of their "firm belief" as being "an effect of the Spirit of truth operating outside the visible confines of the Mystical Body" (No. 6). In Dominum et Vivificantem, he takes a further step, affirming the universal action of the Holy Spirit in the world before the Christian dispensation, to which it was ordained, and referring to the universal action of the same Spirit today, even outside the visible body of the Church (cf. No. 53).
27. John Paul II and the approach to other religious traditions
In his address to the Roman Curia after the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Pope John Paul II stressed once more the universal presence of the Holy Spirit, stating that "every authentic prayer is called forth by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in the heart of every person," Christian or otherwise. But again, in the same discourse, the Pope, going beyond an individual perspective, articulated the main elements which together can be seen as constituting the theological basis for a positive approach to other religious traditions and the practice of interreligious dialogue.
28. The mystery of the unity of all mankind
First comes the fact that the whole of humankind forms one family, due to the common origin of all men and women, created by God in his own image. Correspondingly, all are called to a common destiny, the fullness of life in God. Moreover, there is but one plan of salvation for humankind, with its centre in Jesus Christ, who in his incarnation "has united himself in a certain manner to every person" (RH 13; cf. GS 22.2). Finally, there needs to be mentioned the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the religious life of the members of the other religious traditions. From all this the Pope concludes to a "mystery of unity" which was manifested clearly at Assisi, "in spite of the differences between religious professions."(13)
29. The unity of salvation
From this mystery of unity it follows that all men and women who are saved share, though differently, in the same mystery of salvation in Jesus Christ through his Spirit. Christians know this through their faith, while others remain unaware that Jesus Christ is the source of their salvation. The mystery of salvation reaches out to them, in a way known to God, through the invisible action of the Spirit of Christ. Concretely, it will be in the sincere practice of what is good in their own religious traditions and by following the dictates of their conscience that the members of other religions respond positively to God's invitation and receive salvation in Jesus Christ, even while they do not recognize or acknowledge him as their saviour (cf. AG 3,9,11).
30. The need for discernment
The fruits of the Spirit of God in the personal life of individuals, whether Christian or otherwise, are easily discernible (cf. Ga 5:22-23). To identify in other religious traditions elements of grace capable of sustaining the positive response of their members to God's invitation is much more difficult. It requires a discernment for which criteria have to be established. Sincere individuals marked by the Spirit of God have certainly put their imprint on the elaboration and the development of their respective religious traditions. It does not follow, however, that everything in them is good.
31. Values and contradictions
To say that the other religious traditions include elements of grace does not imply that everything in them is the result of grace. For sin has been at work in the world, and so religious traditions, notwithstanding their positive values, reflect the limitations of the human spirit, sometimes inclined to choose evil. An open and positive approach to other religious traditions cannot overlook the contradictions which may exist between them and Christian revelation. It must, where necessary, recognize that there is incompatibility between some fundamental elements of the Christian religion and some aspects of such traditions.
32. Dialogue and purification
This means that, while entering with an open mind into dialogue with the followers of other religious traditions, Christians may have also to challenge them in a peaceful spirit with regard to the content of their belief. But Christians too must allow themselves to be questioned. Notwithstanding the fullness of God's revelation in Jesus Christ, the way Christians sometimes understand their religion and practise it may be in need of purification.
2. THE PLACE OF INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE IN THE EVANGELIZING MISSION OF THE CHURCH
33. The Church, universal sacrament of salvation
The Church has been willed by God and instituted by Christ to be, in the fullness of time, the sign and instrument of the divine plan of salvation (cf. LG 1), the centre of which is the mystery of Christ. She is the "universal sacrament of salvation" (LG 48), and is "necessary for salvation" (LG 14). The Lord Jesus himself inaugurated her mission "by preaching the good news, that is, the coming of God's Kingdom" (LG 5).
34. Seed and beginning of the Kingdom
The relationship between the Church and the Kingdom is mysterious and complex. As Vatican II teaches, "principally the Kingdom is revealed in the person of Christ himself." Yet the Church, which has received from the Lord Jesus the mission of proclaiming the Kingdom "is, on earth, the seed and the beginning of that Kingdom." At the same time the Church "slowly grows to maturity (and) longs for the completed Kingdom" (LG 5). Thus "the Kingdom is inseparable from the Church, because both are inseparable from the person and work of Jesus himself... It is therefore not possible to separate the Church from the Kingdom as if the first belonged exclusively to the imperfect realm of history, while the second would be the perfect eschatological fulfillment of the divine plan of salvation"(14).
35. Religious traditions and the Church
To the Church, as the sacrament in which the Kingdom of God is present "in mystery", are related or oriented (ordinantur) (cf. LG 16) the members of other religious traditions who, inasmuch as they respond to God's calling as perceived by their conscience, are saved in Jesus Christ and thus already share in some way in the reality which is signified by the Kingdom. The Church's mission is to foster "the Kingdom of our Lord and his Christ" (Rv 11:15), at whose service she is placed. Part of her role consists in recognizing that the inchoate reality of this Kingdom can be found also beyond the confines of the Church, for example in the hearts of the followers of other religious traditions, insofar as they live evangelical values and are open to the action of the Spirit. It must be remembered nevertheless that this is indeed an inchoate reality, which needs to find completion through being related to the Kingdom of Christ already present in the Church yet realized fully only in the world to come.
36. The pilgrim Church
The Church on earth is always on pilgrimage. Although she is holy by divine institution her members are not perfect; they bear the mark of their human limitations. Consequently, her transparency as sacrament of salvation is blurred. This is the reason why the church herself, "insofar as she is an institution of men here on earth," and not only her members, is constantly in need of renewal and reform (cf. UR 6).
37. Towards the fullness of divine truth
With regard to divine Revelation the Council taught that "the most intimate truth which this revelation gives us about God and the salvation of man shines forth in Christ, who is himself both the mediator and the sum total of revelation" (DV 2). Faithful to the command received from Christ himself, the apostles handed on this Revelation. Yet "the Tradition that comes from the apostles makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on" (DV 8). This happens through study and spiritual experience. It also comes about through the teaching of the bishops who have received a sure charism of truth. Thus the Church "is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth, until eventually the words of God are fulfilled in her" (DV 8). This in no way contradicts the Church's divine institution nor the fullness of God's Revelation in Jesus Christ which has been entrusted to her.
38. Dialogue of salvation
Against this background it becomes easier to see why and in what sense interreligious dialogue is an integral element of the Church's evangelizing mission. The foundation of the Church's commitment to dialogue is not merely anthropological but primarily theological. God, in an age-long dialogue, has offered and continues to offer salvation to humankind. In faithfulness to the divine initiative, the Church too must enter into a dialogue of salvation with all men and women.
39. Methods of presence, respect and love towards all
Pope Paul VI taught this clearly in his first Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam. Pope John Paul II too has stressed the Church's call to interreligious dialogue and assigned to it the same foundation. Addressing the 1984 Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Pope declared: "(Interreligious) dialogue is fundamental to the Church, which is called to collaborate in God's plan with her methods of presence, respect and love towards all persons." He went on to call attention to a passage from Ad Gentes: "closely united to men in their life and work, Christ's disciples hope to render to others true witness of Christ and to work for this salvation, even where they are not able to proclaim Christ fully" (AG 12). He prefaced this by saying: "dialogue finds its place within the Church's salvific mission; for this reason it is a dialogue of salvation"(15).
40. Collaborate with the Holy Spirit
In this dialogue of salvation, Christians and others are called to collaborate with the Spirit of the Risen Lord who is universally present and active. Interreligious dialogue does not merely aim at mutual understanding and friendly relations.
It reaches a much deeper level, that of the spirit, where exchange and sharing consist in a mutual witness to one's beliefs and a common exploration of one's respective religious convictions. In dialogue, Christians and others are invited to deepen their religious commitment, to respond with increasing sincerity to God's personal call and gracious self-gift, as our faith tells us, always passes through the mediation of Jesus Christ and the work of his Spirit.
41. Conversion to God
Given this aim, a deeper conversion of all towards God, interreligious dialogue possesses its own validity. In this process of conversion "the decision may be made to leave one's previous spiritual or religious situation in order to direct oneself towards another"(16). Sincere dialogue implies, on the one hand, mutual acceptance of differences, or even of contradictions, and on the other, respect for the free decision of persons taken according to the dictates of their conscience (cf. DH 2). The teaching of the Council must nevertheless be borne in mind: "All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and to hold on to it as they come to know it" (DH 1).
42. The forms of dialogue
There exist different forms of interreligious dialogue. It may be useful to recall those mentioned by the 1984 document of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue(17). It spoke of four forms, without claiming to establish among them any order of priority:
a) The dialogue of life, where people strive to live in an open and neighbourly spirit, sharing their joys and sorrows, their human problems and preoccupations.
b) The dialogue of action, in which Christians and others collaborate for the integral development and liberation of people.
c) The dialogue of theological exchange, where specialists seek to deepen their understanding of their respective religious heritages, and to appreciate each other's spiritual values.
d) The dialogue of religious experience, where persons, rooted in their own religious traditions, share their spiritual riches, for instance with regard to prayer and contemplation, faith and ways of searching for God or the Absolute.
43. The interdependence of the various forms of dialogue
One should not lose sight of this variety of forms of dialogue. Were it to be reduced to theological exchange, dialogue might easily be taken as a sort of luxury item in the Church's mission, a domain reserved for specialists. On the contrary, guided by the Pope and their bishops, all local Churches, and all the members of these Churches, are called to dialogue, though not all in the same way. It can be seen, moreover, that the different forms are interconnected. Contacts in daily life and common commitment to action will normally open the door for cooperation in promoting human and spiritual values; they may also eventually lead to the dialogue of religious experience in response to the great questions which the circumstances of life do not fail to arouse in the minds of people (cf. NA 2). Exchanges at the level of religious experience can give more life to theological discussions. These in turn can enlighten experience and encourage closer contacts.
44. Dialogue and human liberation
The importance of dialogue for integral development, social justice and human liberation needs to be stressed. Local Churches are called upon, as witnesses to Christ, to commit themselves in this respect in an unselfish and impartial manner. There is need to stand up for human rights, proclaim the demands of justice, and denounce injustice not only when their own members are victimized, but independently of the religious allegiance of the victims. There is need also to join together in trying to solve the great problems facing society and the world, as well as in education for justice and peace.
45. Dialogue and culture
Another context in which interreligious dialogue seems urgent today is that of culture. Culture is broader than religion. According to one concept religion can be said to represent the transcendent dimension of culture and in a certain way its soul. Religions have certainly contributed to the progress of culture and the construction of a more humane society. Yet religious practices have sometimes had an alienating influence upon cultures. Today, an autonomous secular culture can play a critical role with regard to negative elements in particular religions. The question is complex, for several religious traditions may coexist within one and the same cultural framework while, conversely, the same religion may find expression in different cultural contexts. Again, religious differences may lead to distinct cultures in the same region.
46. Tensions and conflicts
The Christian message supports many values found and lived in the wisdom and the rich heritage of cultures, but it may also put in question culturally accepted values. Attentive dialogue implies recognizing and accepting cultural values which respect the human person's dignity and transcendent destiny. It may happen, nevertheless, that some aspects of traditional Christian cultures are challenged by the local cultures of other religious traditions (cf. EN 20). In these complex relationships between culture and religion, interreligious dialogue at the level of culture takes on considerable importance. Its aim is to eliminate tensions and conflicts, and potential confrontations by a better understanding among the various religious cultures of any given region. It may contribute to purifying cultures from any dehumanizing elements, and thus be an agent of transformation. It can also help to uphold certain traditional cultural values which are under threat from modernity and the levelling down which indiscriminate internationalization may bring with it.
4. DISPOSITIONS FOR INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE AND ITS FRUITS
47. A balanced attitude
Dialogue requires, on the part of Christians as well as of the followers of other traditions, a balanced attitude. They should be neither ingenuous nor overly critical, but open and receptive. Unselfishness and impartiality, acceptance of differences and of possible contradictions, have already been mentioned. The will to engage together in commitment to the truth and the readiness to allow oneself to be transformed by the encounter are other dispositions required.
48. Religious conviction
This does not mean that in entering into dialogue the partners should lay aside their respective religious convictions. The opposite is true: the sincerity of interreligious dialogue requires that each enters into it with the integrity of his or her own faith. At the same time, while remaining firm in their belief that in Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Tm 2:4-6), the fullness of revelation has been given to them, Christians must remember that God has also manifested himself in some way to the followers of other religious traditions. Consequently, it is with receptive minds that they approach the convictions and values of others.
49. Openness to truth
Moreover, the fullness of truth received in Jesus Christ does not give individual Christians the guarantee that they have grasped that truth fully. In the last analysis truth is not a thing we possess, but a person by whom we must allow ourselves to be possessed. This is an unending process. While keeping their identity intact, Christians must be prepared to learn and to receive from and through others the positive values of their traditions. Through dialogue they may be moved to give up ingrained prejudices, to revise preconceived ideas, and even sometimes to allow the understanding of their faith to be purified.
50. New dimensions of faith
If Christians cultivate such openness and allow themselves to be tested, they will be able to gather the fruits of dialogue. They will discover with admiration all that God's action through Jesus Christ in his Spirit has accomplished and continues to accomplish in the world and in the whole of humankind. Far from weakening their own faith, true dialogue will deepen it. They will become increasingly aware of their Christian identity and perceive more clearly the distinctive elements of the Christian message. Their faith will gain new dimensions as they discover the active presence of the mystery of Jesus Christ beyond the visible boundaries of the Church and of the Christian fold.
51. Obstacles or dialogue
Already on a purely human level, it is not easy to practise dialogue. Interreligious dialogue is even more difficult. It is important to be aware of the obstacles which may arise. Some would apply equally to the members of all religious traditions and impede the success of dialogue. Others may affect some religious traditions more specifically and make it difficult for a process of dialogue to be initiated. Some of the more important obstacles will be mentioned here.
52. Human factors
a) Insufficient grounding in one's own faith.
b) Insufficient knowledge and understanding of the belief and practices of other religions, leading to a lack of appreciation for their significance and even at times to misrepresentation.
d) Socio-political factors or some burdens of the past.
e) Wrong understanding of the meaning of terms such as conversion, baptism, dialogue, etc.
f) Self-sufficiency, lack of openness leading to defensive or aggressive attitudes.
g) A lack of conviction with regard to the value of interreligious dialogue, which some may see as a task reserved to specialists, and others as a sign of weakness or even a betrayal of the faith.
h) Suspicion about the other's motives in dialogue.
i) A polemical spirit when expressing religious convictions.
j) Intolerance, which is often aggravated by association with political, economic, racial and ethnic factors, a lack, of reciprocity in dialogue which can lead to frustration.
k) Certain features of the present religious climate, e.g., growing materialism, religious indifference, and the multiplication of religious sects which creates confusion and raises new problems.
53. The initiative of God
Many of these obstacles arise from a lack of understanding of the true nature and goal of interreligious dialogue. These need therefore to be constantly explained. Much patience is required. It must be remembered that the Church's commitment to dialogue is not dependent on success in achieving mutual understanding and enrichment; rather it flows from God's initiative in entering into a dialogue with humankind and from the example of Jesus Christ whose life, death and resurrection gave to that dialogue its ultimate expression.
54. The sharing of evangelical values
Moreover the obstacles, though real, should not lead us to underestimate the possibilities of dialogue or to overlook the results already achieved. There has been a growth in mutual understanding, and in active cooperation. Dialogue has had a positive impact on the Church herself. Other religions have also been led through dialogue to renewal and greater openness. Interreligious dialogue has made it possible for the Church to share Gospel values with others. So despite the difficulties, the Church's commitment to dialogue remains firm and irreversible.