Baltimore auxiliary Bishop Denis Madden recently wrote a guest blog on Pope Paul VI for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
When Pope Paul VI, who will be beatified October 19, inherited the Second Vatican Council from John XXIII in 1963, his challenges included fulfilling the late pope’s wishes to “open a window” in the Church and to reach out to “our separated brethren.” Pope Paul’s approach to both of these was to introduce the concept of dialogue.
The Church hasn’t been the same since.
John O’Malley recounts in his book “What Happened at Vatican II” that the Council’s early draft on ecumenism didn’t use the word dialogue once. Then Pope Paul issued his first encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam (On the Church) on August 6, 1964. In it, he repeatedly stressed the importance of dialogue, stating, “The Church must enter into dialogue with the world in which it lives. It has something to say, a message to give, a communication to make.” The Council championed dialogue from then on.
November 1964 saw the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio), which called on “all the Catholic faithful to recognize the signs of the times and to take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism,” that is, dialoguing with, praying together and simply building friendships with non-Catholic Christians.
In October 1965, the Council took dialogue beyond other Christians and applied it to the world’s religions with Nostra Aetate, a brief but groundbreaking document that swept away centuries of erroneous negative teaching about the Jewish people and held up examples, essentially starting points for dialogue, where the Catholic Church saw positive elements of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. The document noted that all religions seek answers to the big questions: What is the meaning of life? Why do people suffer? What is the road to true happiness? All of these call for dialogue.
To read the remainder of this blog, visit this USCCB page.
Bishop Madden is an auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.