Why do Catholics need to dialogue with the major world religions?

The immediate purpose of dialogue is not to convert them to Christianity but to begin to learn about them and the role that their faith plays in their lives, just as Christianity does in our own. The dawn of the new millennium is the ideal moment to call on the Holy Spirit to help us all come together in a common dialogue that highlights the ways in which we are alike rather than those in which we differ.

In exploring the five major religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity) in my course at Georgetown University, my purpose is not to view world religions through a Christian lens as such but to help my students look at followers of major religious traditions as persons of faith who are open to dialogue. Giving students the freedom to articulate their understandings while providing them with a foundation upon which to base their explorations usually results in not a diminishment, but a strengthening of their faith. They learn more about themselves and are better able to understand the role different religions have played and continue to play in the growth and development of the U.S. The class is an effort to live up to the mandate of Vatican II to engage in interreligious dialogue that promotes greater harmony and understanding among the many peoples and nations of this rapidly shrinking world. Today, as we prepare to welcome a new millennium, dialogue also addresses the hopes outlined by Pope John Paul 11: "...The eve of the Year 2000 will provide a great opportunity, especially in view of the events of recent decades, for interreligious dialogue....ln this dialogue the Jews and Muslims ought to have a pre-eminent place" (The Coming Third Millennium).

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