ROME, OCT. 28, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Dialogue with believers of other religions is part of Christ’s missionary mandate to evangelize, says the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
Cardinal Francis Arinze spoke Wednesday on the link between evangelization and Interreligious dialogue at the inauguration of the master’s program on “Church, Ecumenism and Religions” of the School of Theology of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
His lecture was entitled “The Catholic Church Today and the Religions of the World.”
“The moment comes when we must proclaim Jesus,” he said, as “before God we have the obligation to seek religious truth.”
His comment came on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the publication of Second Vatican Council declaration “Nostra Aetate,” on the Church’s relations with non-Christian religions.
This truth consists in the fact that “Jesus Christ is the only savior of the whole of humanity,” said the cardinal.
“There is only one God, there is only one mediator between God and humanity,” he added, emphasizing that Jesus instituted the Church as the “ordinary way for salvation.”
Salvation is a divine initiative to which we are called, the cardinal said.
It is not we who “begin the adventure,” he noted. “Without grace, no one is saved.”
Cardinal Arinze, a former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said that although the divine plan of salvation embraces the whole of humanity and it is possible to be saved being members of other religions, it must not be forgotten that it is “the salvation of Jesus Savior.”
Therefore, although those concerned do not know him, when they reach heaven they will meet with this “lovely surprise,” said the cardinal, who turns 73 next Tuesday.
The cardinal then posed the question of why a missionary mandate, if salvation is possible outside the Church.
It is not enough “to have the possibility of salvation,” he answered, it is also necessary “to receive the means for salvation in their fullness and abundance,” and “only in the Church can we find all these means.”
Recognizing the “fundamental importance of dialogue and of collaboration between religions,” the Nigerian prelate stressed the need to defend and promote the Christian and Catholic identity of European countries.
There are people who “want to destroy the religious identity of some nations,” for which the Christian element has been fundamental, he said.
At the same time, Christianity in these countries is threatened by baptized persons themselves who are “too liberal,” “they do not know enough about Christianity,” and “are relativists in religious matters,” he explained.
This allows other religions or sects to penetrate easily, he said, drawing Catholics away from the Church.