Vatican delegates in Canberra

Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue at Archbishop’s House.

Delegates of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) have been in Australia over the last week to observe and engage with the way Australian faiths communicate and co-operate.

Described as a Pastoral Visit, the delegates visited Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne during their stay and undertook a number of meetings and discussions with representatives from a range of faiths.

Starting on Sydney on Sunday, September 16, the Pastoral Visit concluded on Tuesday, September 25 and featured a busy schedule.

Spanish Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said he was very happy with what he had seen in Australia and could reconfirm the existing spirit of multiculturalism.

“Australia is very multicultural, which is a gift to be preserved, because when we look at other parts of the world, we see how sometimes we lose this precious gift and we enter into conflict and exclusivism,” he said.

“It is very important to value this gift (of multiculturalism) at this time. Multiculturalism is supported by the contributions and values existing in different cultures coming from different religious traditions. Therefore, cultures and religions are not problems.”

Cohesion through dialogue and understanding

Reflecting on the delegation’s visit to western Sydney and a diocese with 150 cultures, Bishop Ayuso encouraged all Australian Catholic communities to enhance religious dialogue and collaboration with other faith communities to build social cohesion while serving those in need.

“Pope Francis is promoting a culture of encounter and that there be an attitude of openness – to be open to other faiths in respect and friendship,” Bishop Ayuso said.

“Today, as we look at the world, we see Pope Francis is constantly appealing to and calling to the international community for the accepting and welcoming of all kinds of refugees. His message to the entire world is to be very sensitive to the reality that every person is my brother and my sister and, therefore, we must respect every human person.”

Bishop Ayuso said education was the key to create a loving, just and accepting society.

“Dialogue means we have to remain fully in our own identity … not a melting pot, but a lovely mixed salad. We must avoid relativism and remain deeply rooted in our own religious traditions,” he said.

Bishop Ayuso said a profound education in one’s own Catholic faith and being well informed about other religions was required to achieve interfaith harmony.

The unique Australian experience

Archbishop Prowse said there had been a growing appreciation within the Catholic Church of inter-faith co-operation in recent decades.

“Particularly since the Second Vatican II Council, the value that the Catholic Church places in inter-religious dialogue has grown immeasurably,” he said.

“When I attend international conferences on inter-religious relations I can observe that what happens in Australia happens in very few other countries of the world.  We are world leaders! “

“For the first time, an official delegation from the Vatican has come to Australia for a brief visit to observe the fruits of our dialogue with world religions here in Australia. Their main task is to advise Pope Francis on the Catholic Church’s attitudes, teachings, dialogue and initiatives regarding building bridges of peace together.”

Archbishop Christopher Prowse, who accompanied the delegation throughout their visit, believed Australia offered a unique view of cultures and faiths working together.

“Surely one of the greatest gifts of Australia is our multi-cultural dimension.  Particularly since the Second World War we have welcomed people from every corner of the globe in peace and relative social stability,” he said. 

“This has offered Australia immense fruits and has made us in many ways the envy of the world. One aspect of our new multicultural composition is often overlooked.  When people come to Australia they also bring their various religious cultures with them.  Australia now has an extraordinary multi-religious culture.  In so many ways this has become the “social glue” keeping us together as one nation.”

Archbishop Prowse said there had been a growing appreciation within the Catholic Church of inter-faith co-operation in recent decades.

“Particularly since the Second Vatican II Council, the value that the Catholic Church places in inter-religious dialogue has grown immeasurably,” he said.

“When I attend international conferences on inter-religious relations I can observe that what happens in Australia happens in very few other countries of the world.  We are world leaders! “

“For the first time, an official delegation from the Vatican has come to Australia for a brief visit to observe the fruits of our dialogue with world religions here in Australia. Their main task is to advise Pope Francis on the Catholic Church’s attitudes, teachings, dialogue and initiatives regarding building bridges of peace together.”

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