“Catholics and Interreligious Relations: Challenges Facing a New Pope” on The Parliament Blog

Council for a Parliament of the World’s Relgions
February 26, 2013

John T. Pawlikowski, OSM, Ph.D
Catholic Theological Union, Chicago


Benedict XVI’s papacy has been marked by ups and downs. There was more than one colossal “faux pas” (.e.g the Regensburg speech) with regard to Muslims (and the Bishop Williamson affair). Overall, however, Benedict generally kept intact the interreligious thrust of the Catholic Church generated by Vatican II But he did not do much to advance that thrust beyond his predecessor John Paul II.

If (and that remains a big “if”) the new Pope wishes to move interreligious relations to a new level I see three interrelated challenges before him. The first will be how to handle the strong emphasis on evangelization and dialogue that has been a central of the past several years of Benedict XVI’s time in office. In my mind few Catholic leaders have really struggled with the question, “can you mount an evangelization campaign and still remain committed to interreligious relations?” Doesn’t such an evangelization outreach place “the other” on unequal footing  from the Catholic perspective? And doesn’t authentic dialogue require some affirmation of the coequal status of your dialogue partner?

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