In Canada, Interreligious Dialogue Arises Naturally

But Cardinal Arinze Urges Intense Study First

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2001 ( For Canada´s large cities, interreligious dialogue is not an abstraction.

Cardinal Francis Arinze saw as much during his recent visit to the Archdiocese of Vancouver, at the invitation of the Benedictine Abbey of Westminster. The cardinal is president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

In the western Canadian city, 57 out of 100 people are not native English speakers; they belong to 138 linguistic groups. In St. Mary´s Parish, for example, parishioners come from 79 nations, the majority being Chinese.

On his return to Rome, Cardinal Arinze told Vatican Radio that, in a diocese such as Vancouver, interreligious dialogue is not just a theory but an integral part of daily life.

The cardinal had several key meetings in the abbey. One was with the archdiocese as a whole, which was also attended by faithful of other religions.

The cardinal spoke to them about the Catholic Church´s position when addressing a multicultural and multireligious population.

Without interrupting its preaching about Jesus, the Church seeks man wherever he is, and this contact can begin with those elements that are good, true and noble in any culture and religion, the cardinal explained.

The cardinal also met the 30 or so monks who live in Westminster Abbey, and reminded them of the great contribution that they can make to the interreligious dialogue through their prayer, sacrifice, hospitality and witness in the name of Jesus.

Some Catholic monks, especially in Asia, have initiated a dialogue with monks of other religions and traditions, such as Buddhism. John Paul II himself stressed the good fruits that such initiatives might yield. In this area, the work of Benedictines and Trappists is appreciated worldwide, the African cardinal said.

He emphasized, however, the importance of in-depth study of Christianity, before Catholics hold a meeting with believers of other religions. Otherwise, the dialogue loses its meaning, he said.

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