Retire Pope Benedict XVI CNS photo/Paul Haring

Retired pope says interreligious dialogue no substitute for mission

By  Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service
  • October 23, 2014

VATICAN CITY - Retired Pope Benedict XVI said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures, and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as "lethal to faith." He also said the true motivation for missionary work is not to increase the church's size but to share the joy of knowing Christ.

The retired pope's words appeared in written remarks to faculty members and students at Rome's Pontifical Urbanian University, which belongs to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household and personal secretary to retired Pope Benedict, read the 1,800-word message aloud Oct. 21, at a ceremony dedicating the university's renovated main lecture hall to the retired pope.

The speech is one of a handful of public statements, including an interview and a published letter to a journalist, that Pope Benedict has made since he retired in February 2013.

"The risen Lord instructed his apostles, and through them his disciples in all ages, to take his word to the ends of the earth and to make disciples of all people," retired Pope Benedict wrote. "'But does that still apply?' many inside and outside the church ask themselves today. 'Is mission still something for today? Would it not be more appropriate to meet in dialogue among religions and serve together the cause of world peace?' The counter-question is: 'Can dialogue substitute for mission?'

"In fact, many today think religions should respect each other and, in their dialogue, become a common force for peace. According to this way of thinking, it is usually taken for granted that different religions are variants of one and the same reality," the retired pope wrote. "The question of truth, that which originally motivated Christians more than any other, is here put inside parentheses. It is assumed that the authentic truth about God is in the last analysis unreachable and that at best one can represent the ineffable with a variety of symbols. This renunciation of truth seems realistic and useful for peace among religions in the world.

"It is nevertheless lethal to faith. In fact, faith loses its binding character and its seriousness, everything is reduced to interchangeable symbols, capable of referring only distantly to the inaccessible mystery of the divine," he wrote.

Pope Benedict wrote that some religions, particularly "tribal religions," are "waiting for the encounter with Jesus Christ," but that this "encounter is always reciprocal. Christ is waiting for their history, their wisdom, their vision of the things." This encounter can also give new life to Christianity, which has grown tired in its historical heartlands, he wrote.

"We proclaim Jesus Christ not to procure as many members as possible for our community, and still less in order to gain power," the retired pope wrote. "We speak of him because we feel the duty to transmit that joy which has been given to us."

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People in this conversation

  • Bea

    At last a condemnation of "dialogue".
    "Go forth & teach all nations" Christ said. He didn't say "go forth & dialogue"
    I have long held that ecumenism & dialogue are useless.
    One can't come to a consensus on Truth. Truth stands alone.
    "Will you also leave me?" Our Lord said. He didn't concur w/error.

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  • Jack c

    Boy, it's nice to see the old guy.

    What a great. man ."Er is ein wahr Christian"

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  • David A. Domet

    What a joy to hear from our Papa Ratzinger. What a humble and gentle man whom we did not deserve. A man faithful to the truth. Faithful to tradition. A Pope that knew what it is to be Catholic. A future Doctor of the Church!

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  • Father James

    Too little too late, Emeritus Holy Father. You should have never retired in the first place. You will always be loved.

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  • Bruno

    Hearing Papa Bento words seems like tasting mana!

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  • Michelle

    The fact is that people believe different things and is there not a value in acknowledging that? Christ also calls us to appreciate the human dignity of the human person. How can we fully respect a person if we chose to not acknowledge their faith. Dialogue is an avenue for love and appreciation.

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  • Brendan Greally

    Pray for the retirement of Pope Francis and a shepherd who can take the mission forward! The church is wounded when we deny any single part of His incarnation!

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  • Carlos M. Benavides

    I appreciate the orthodox teaching of Benedict XVI, and I say that a true disciple of Jesus Christ believes that through Jesus and his Redemption, he has reached and is serving the true God--the Most Blessed Trinity, and he/she will not compromise his faith for the sake of getting along with others

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  • Chris

    Thank you Michelle for your comment. I was shocked to see only you speaking up for putting fist what Christianity is about: The love of others, not oneself. If you truly love somebody you love them as he/she is.
    I don't need others to believe the same as I do in order to have a solid faith.

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