In an address at the Catholic University of Australia in Sydney several years ago Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, formerly head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said that an interreligious outlook pervaded all the documents issued by the II Vatican Council. It was, as it were, that the Council added interreligious sensibility and concern to the Church’s basis self-definition.
This interreligious orientation at the heart of the Council is most thoroughly ex- pressed in its document NOSTRA AETATE (“In Our Time”) which explicitly focused on the theme. It begins by stating general principles from the Catholic perspective for interreligious participation, particularly the view that Catholicism rejects nothing authentic in other religious traditions. In its final two chapters it takes up the relationship with Islam and Judaism with which Christianity shares an Abrahamic perspective and segments of the biblical tradition.
Subsequent to the issuance of NOSTRA AETATE the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews which was created to implement the Christian-Jewish section of NOSTRA AETATE argued that Catholics must come to understand Jews “as they define themselves” and not approach our Jewish brothers and sisters with a stereotypical understanding. While these no parallel Vatican statement with regard to Islam the same principle needs to be applied. Islam is a variegated\religious community that embraces people of many different cultures and nationalities. Contrary to a widespread stereotype the majority of Muslims are non-Arabs. Islam also has many differing ways of understanding and expressing its religious revelation. Hence to fulfill the conciliar mandate to engage with Islamic community that originates from Vatican II it is imperative for Catholics to better understand the teachings of Islam in their varied forms. This video presentation will open up the beauty and diversity of the Islam tradition for the Catholic community.
John T. Pawlikowski, OSM, Ph.D
Catholic Theological Union