Chiara Lubich: On What Christians and Hindus Can Agree On

Interview with Founder of Focolare

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ROME, FEB. 9, 2001 ( How is it possible to establish a genuine dialogue with religions, without falling into syncretism or failing to proclaim the Gospel? Few people have as much experience in this dialogue as does Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement.

Lubich was in India last month to open channels of dialogue with Hinduism. In Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu, she received the «Defender of Peace» award, and was invited to speak about her spiritual experience to hundreds of Hindus and members of other religions, humanitarian organizations inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, and cultural institutions open to the interreligious dialogue.

In his recent apostolic letter, «Novo Millennio Ineunte,» John Paul II emphasized that in «the condition of more pronounced cultural and religious pluralism that is evident in the society of the new millennium,» dialogue with other religions is important for peace.

Lubich founded the Focolare Movement in Italy in 1943. Today it has 2 million members and sympathizers, in 182 countries. In this interview with Vatican Radio she spoke about dialogue with other religions.

–Q: What does dialoguing really mean?

–Lubich: To dialogue means, above all, to be placed on the same level: not to think we are better than others. One can dialogue with everyone, even with the least, the poorest. It also means to listen to what the other one has in his heart: to be totally open.

It means putting aside our thoughts, our affections of heart, and our attachments; putting everything aside and «entering» the other. This elicits reciprocal listening. Then common elements are perceived and, in the case of the dialogue that we are developing, to come to an agreement to live [those elements] together.

This dialogue makes universal fraternity a reality, in whose name we wish to act. Thus, it is possible to be united even with the most distant and different people.

–Q: However, in your opinion, what are the specific elements of the dialogue between Christians and Hindus?

–Lubich: I have thought of a few of these specific elements. We are discovering something wonderful in the different religions. … For example, speaking with some [Hindu] monks, I have said that we agree with some of the expressions of their sacred texts.

I said: «We stress that God is love, but don´t you say that God loved us first, because he gave us love and makes it grow in us when we seek it»? Don´t you also say: «The Lord is love by nature, he dwells in love, which is his supreme reality»? Don´t you repeat that phrase of Tagore: «Since I encountered my Lord, our game of love has never ended?»

They were impressed by these phrases, which one could say are «ours.» Therefore, when I said that to love God one must do his will, which it is not about feelings, I added: «Don´t you also say: To do the Lord´s will is greater than singing his praises»?

And, when I spoke of loving others as one loves oneself, I said: «For example, Gandhi says to us: ´You and I are only one. I cannot harm you without harming myself´?» Then, when we spoke about loving one´s enemy, which is typically Christian, we quoted another of his thoughts: «The ax cuts the sandalwood, while the latter gives it its virtue, by perfuming it.» In a word, it takes revenge with love.

All of these are seeds of the Word — that something of life, of truth, with which we agree and wish to stress. Hence, one goes to the essence, which is love. Because they also believe in love. It is something very beautiful, very important. Then, these brothers of our fall in love again. Perhaps all this is not yet clearly seen, with so many pious practices, rites, processions led by elephants.

–Q: What is the contribution to the Catholic Church of dialogue with other religions?

–Lubich: The dialogue with other religions increasingly opens the Catholic Church. Look, this is what I mean: The Church is the one «that is in herself and outside of herself,» because St. Thomas said that the Church is not only measured by the number of Catholics but also, as Jesus Christ died for all men, by the number of all those for whom he has died; that is, the whole of humanity. Therefore, in a certain sense, the Church is also «outside herself.»

Dialogue opens that part of «herself that exists outside herself,» and which is present in the seeds of the Word. However, the Word is the Word of God; and Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, is «ours.» Therefore, we must regard these «seeds» also as «ours.»

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