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Issue Date:  March 21, 2008


-- Photos from CNS

Fr. Jacques Dupuis Cardinal Franz König
Dialogue between König and Dupuis

Following is a transcript of the König-Dupuis dialogue, which took place in Vienna, Austria, July 16, 2003. The NCR staff has excerpted it for space considerations. For the full dialogue, see the Special Documents section, NCRonline.org.

Jesuit Fr. Jacques Dupuis: As we were saying at coffee just now, it is so important to consider interreligious dialogue in the Asian context. The big question is how to proclaim Jesus Christ in a country like India today. Once you start talking about proclaiming -- I mean using the actual word proclaim -- that somehow suggests an obligation to tell everyone that Jesus Christ is the only universal savior and that the people you are proclaiming to must convert to Christianity. ... One must make it quite clear that evangelization is not mere proclamation. Evangelization first of all means bearing Christian witness. Secondly it means involvement for justice in the world and the liberation of people from unjust practices. Then, thirdly, comes interreligious dialogue -- and finally -- that is fourth in order of importance, as laid down by the Secretariat for Non-Christians -- comes proclamation. In the Indian context what is most important is involvement for human liberation and interreligious dialogue. ...
That is why John Paul II’s words were dangerous when he came to Delhi to publish the exhortation on the Church in Asia after the Rome synod on the subject. You remember he recalled that the first millennium had been that of the evangelization of Europe, the second of Africa and America and the third millennium would be the evangelization of Asia and of India. By referring to the evangelization of Africa and America, he conjured up memories of just how those two continents were evangelized -- evangelization as missionizing in the colonial sense. In the Indian context one must make clear, as I have just done, that what is important is involvement in human liberation and interreligious dialogue -- and that proclamation comes last. Talking of “the evangelization of Asia” as if it was similar to the evangelization of America and Africa is a very dangerous way of speaking in India.
Cardinal Franz König: Of course -- exceedingly dangerous. One must never forget the burden of history -- in this case the colonial burden. ... It’s like the word missionaries. To many Asians, Africans and Latin Americans the very word recalls white European missionaries forcefully converting thousands of indigenous people by immediately and often very superficially baptizing them.

D: The present Indian government is against Christianity, very strongly against it. ... When I asked my provincial in Calcutta if it would be possible for me ... to come back to Calcutta and stay in my province, he said, “Forget about it! You’ll never get permission to stay -- not ever again.” And that although I’d lived in India for 36 years! ... One thing you could perhaps mention in the article, Your Eminence, is the importance of interreligious dialogue in this context. Genuine interreligious dialogue, that is, without any ulterior motives, is the only way to make contact.
K: The thing is that the word dialogue has become so hackneyed. ... I think one would have to explain very carefully what genuine dialogue involves. It is a matter of getting closer to the truth by asking one another questions and by diminishing false truths.

D: Does everyone in Rome want that kind of dialogue?
K: They should since the Second Vatican Council. The church used to be far too afraid of questions. ... The council changed all that. We no longer, less today than ever, believe that there is no truth outside the church. We have become a little more humble. God alone is the final truth. We seek God’s truth in our fellow human beings -- who are all his creatures -- through dialogue.

D: Please, you must write on all this.
K: Did the pope [John Paul II] just a fortnight ago -- when he met the Indian bishops in Rome -- did he mention this problem of using the word proclaim?
D: He again insisted on proclaiming Jesus Christ. Bishop [Joseph Robert] Rodericks, who is bishop emeritus of Jamshedpur -- he’s a Jesuit and a dear friend of mine -- came to see me when the Indian bishops were in Rome and he told me about their meeting with Cardinal [Joseph] Ratzinger and their meeting with the pope. And he said they both insisted on proclaiming Jesus Christ.
And Rodericks said to the Holy Father, “Yes, Holy Father, but you must see this in the Indian context, you cannot proclaim straight away -- directly as it were. You have to make your message acceptable through Christian witness first.”
K: Of course.
D: And secondly through dialogue. And dialogue presupposes a positive, open theology.
K: Naturally.

D: Dialogue must be theologically founded. An open theology of dialogue must recognize the real values -- the elements of divine truth and grace -- which are found in the other religious traditions, and that is where the [congregation] is still very much behind the times.
K: Isn’t the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples also involved?
D: Of course. The prefect, Cardinal Jozef Tomko, was one of the cardinals who denounced my book.
K: Tomko, of course, has a very Western approach to all this.

D: Take the first Assisi meeting in 1986. The pope [John Paul II], Cardinal [Roger] Etchegaray and all those responsible insisted that they went to Assisi together to pray, but they emphasized afterward, “We did not pray together.” Praying together with non-Christians -- really praying together, that is -- was not possible, it was said. At the second meeting in Assisi they prayed separately -- even more separately in 2002 than in 1986. I devote the last chapter of my book Christianity and the Religions ... to interreligious prayer, and in this last chapter I explain what the official position in Rome was in 1986 at the time of the first Assisi meeting. Then I quote the Indian bishops’ conference’s document on dialogue in which the Indian bishops say praying together is not only possible but an obligation. So where is the truth? The Indian bishops are surely also a part of the world episcopate, aren’t they?
K: ... Could we perhaps take Assisi -- the 1986 meeting -- as a starting point in the article and begin by pointing out that there are lot of things behind Assisi?

D: The 1986 Assisi meeting was most important but ...
K: Cardinal Ratzinger was against it.
D: Yes, Cardinal Ratzinger was against it. But I just want to go back to what the Indian bishops said. ... The bishops say: “A third form of dialogue goes to the deepest levels of religious life and consists in sharing in prayer and contemplation. The purpose of such common prayer is primarily the corporate worship of the God of all who has created us to be one large family. We are called to worship God not only individually but also in community, and since in a very real and fundamental manner we are one with the whole of humanity, it is not only our right but our duty to worship him together with others.”
And “with others” means very clearly also with non-Christians. Now when the pope talks of evangelizing in India it must first be made clear that he primarily means interreligious dialogue. But in the [congregation’s] declaration Dominus Iesus, at the end, when they speak of interreligious dialogue they still pooh-pooh it. ... If you remember, the last part of Dominus Iesus says something to the effect that while interreligious dialogue is part of the church’s evangelizing mission, the church must be primarily committed to proclaiming the truth -- and there we are again with the chief emphasis on proclamation.

K: But what sense would dialogue have then? Genuine dialogue must be honest. There must be no ulterior motives. Of course each partner has an aim. It’s not meant to be a pointless chat, after all. The aim is to convince one’s partner of the soundness of one’s arguments. But the opposite also applies. One must equally be prepared to allow oneself to be convinced of the soundness of one’s partner’s arguments -- one must want to gain an insight into them. Dialogue is not an attempt to persuade or convert -- the aim is to get to know your partner and why he or she believes what they do.
D: But for Rome the all-important thing is proclamation. ...

K: My impression is that at the beginning Pope John Paul II was very close to your position but that later he gradually allowed himself to be corrected by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
D: Yes, yes. This pope has played a very important role in stressing the travels of the Holy Spirit -- the universal travels of the Holy Spirit ...
K: Yes, I see it that way too ...
D: ... not only in the religious life of individual Christians ...
K: but also in communities ...
D: and also in cultures and in other religions. He believes the Holy Spirit is present in Hinduism ...
K: Yes ...
D: And in Islam and Buddhism.
K: Yes.

D: My question is what is the Holy Spirit doing there? Is this not what the council meant when it spoke of those elements of truth and grace in other religions?
K: Yes, that is the point.

Christa Pongratz-Lippitt: Are there no cardinals in Rome who think like you?
D: That’s a good question. Personally I have very few contacts with cardinals. ... As far as my order is concerned, the Jesuit order, my father general has always been on my side from the very beginning. Thank God I had him. otherwise I don’t know what I would have done or what would have become of me.

K: Couldn’t we mention the Jesuits -- the great ideas they have and their activities in this field -- how they have now taken up your ideas and that they are now a big issue for them? Father General told me when I spoke to him about you that the Jesuits would try to press on in your direction -- very carefully at the beginning -- but that they wanted to discuss your problems. Do you feel that they are waiting, as it were?
D: They are careful and wouldn’t take risks. That is the mentality of many of them. It’s sad, because theologians must be able to publish. ... But to go back to your question as to whether there were cardinals in the Vatican who were on my side. I can tell you that Father General once told me, “You know there are more people in the Vatican on your side than you think -- but they can’t say so openly. Even important people.”
K: He is quite right. That is so.

D: Even important people in the Vatican, however, cannot contradict the [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith], you see. I can only tell you that I have no contacts on high. No cardinal phoned me to say, “I am with you on this.” All I know is what Father General told me -- that there were more people on my side than I realized. But to get back to your article, I think you could emphasize the Asian context, especially the Indian context and the importance of interreligious dialogue as the constitutive element of the church’s evangelizing mission. As far as the theology of dialogue is concerned, the answer obviously is an open theology of dialogue which recognizes the divine values present in other religious traditions and that even as Christians and as Catholics our faith can be enriched by entering into interreligious dialogue, which is the whole point and context of my book.
K: We could highlight certain chapters in your new book. I’m thinking particularly of Chapter 9 on dialogue and Chapter 10 on prayer.

D: And go into what has already been published in the way of important documents such as “Dialogue and Mission” issued by the Secretariat for Non-Christian Religions in 1984, which -- in No. 13 -- actually spells out the mission of the church -- that is, witness, involvement in justice, dialogue and, only finally, proclamation. ... Some years ago, you know, Cardinal Tomko gave the keynote address at the beginning of a full assembly of the [Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences], and he said, not in these exact words but in the equivalent, “You Asian bishops are not doing your job because there are no or very few conversions to Christianity in Asia.” The Asian bishops took this very badly indeed and reacted very strongly, with the result that next morning Cardinal Tomko immediately took the plane back to Rome. You see it’s this obsession that evangelization is proclamation and means baptizing. But this is not according to certain official documents, which give a much broader view of the church’s mission.

K: What you’re saying is most important. Which chapter in your second book do you consider the best or condenses the whole problem best? The beginning and the end perhaps?
D: That is difficult to say. Certainly the question of dialogue -- that is Chapter 9 of Christianity and the Religions, but possibly also the second to last chapter of the previous book, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, Chapter 14, where I explain how dialogue is evangelization and go into the theology of dialogue. ...

D: It’s Page 366 [and the following pages]. That’s where I discuss the document “Dialogue and Proclamation,” but also the important contribution Pope John Paul II has made through his constant affirmation of the presence and action of the Spirit of God among the members of other religions and of course at Assisi where he laid down the theological foundation for interreligious dialogue.
K: Fr. [Karl] Rahner called the idea of dialogue and religion the supernatural existential, you remember.
D: Yes, of course. I was actually much inspired by Rahner. ...

K: If I said religion belongs to or is a part of human existence, would you say that was the same as what Rahner says when he talks of a/the supernatural existential?
D: I think so. Rahner’s “existential” means that man is already always in creation itself ... That means ... that salvation history doesn’t start with Abraham. It starts with creation. And throughout human history God has been seeking [strongly emphasized] the human beings he created and therefore there is divine revelation -- the divine act of salvation -- throughout human history. But of course this line is not accepted by everybody.

K: In the end -- if I accept your ideal -- it gives a lot of positive aspects to the Christian religion -- I mean Christianity comes out in a very positive light? ...
D: And it is the Christian message which should make us develop this positive and open attitude instead of presenting the Christian faith as a sort of closed faith -- closed within itself as “the only true religion” and so on.

K: And all this is a very important question for Europe. What is the meaning of revelation? What is the meaning of religion? The European way of practicing religion -- of religious belief -- has undergone so many changes over the ages.
D: Yes. And you know one thing strikes me ... I’ve been giving lectures everywhere and presenting in so many countries what I’ve written about and what I believe, and everywhere I’ve seen how happy people are to discover a way of presenting the faith that makes sense to them because it is open and they can breathe -- instead of being told that outside the church there is no salvation.
K: Always that idea of fighting against others ...
D: Yes. Unfortunately there is no doubt that the church is moving backward at the moment. Dominus Iesus is a big step back. They [the congregation] say that revelation in Jesus Christ is complete, final, definitive and all the rest -- but that is impossible [voice rising] -- the New Testament says that God will be fully revealed at the end of time.
K: Yes.

D: What is true is that revelation in Jesus Christ is unsurpassed and unsurpassable as divine revelation in history.
K: Yes.
D: But the full, definitive revelation of God -- according to the New Testament -- will be at the end of the world. So how can they [the congregation] say what they say?
K: They study books, not reality.

D: They want to say “absolute,” “definitive” and all the rest because they don’t want to accept that revelation may be found outside Christianity.
K: That is a very important aspect. Of course we have to accept that revelation in Jesus Christ is finished but the thing is: Have we understood it all correctly? We must go on discussing this extensively and continue to try and clear up points that are not yet clear. As I see it, although divine revelation is finished, isn’t there perhaps a possibility that some people may yet get special, personal, new insights -- a mixture of revelation and interpretation, a sort of inspiration? We believe in the activity of the Holy Spirit -- and I’m inclined to think that the Holy Father agrees with me in this but does not say so to the [congregation] -- we believe in the activity of the Holy Spirit in the whole world and that all the world religions are trying to find answers to the final questions. Perhaps human insights and the Holy Spirit working together, as it were, will reveal a new approach. Cardinal Ratzinger and most theologians in Rome are Westernized; they don’t know enough about Asia or about the Asian or Indian mentality. But do the Hindus -- at the moment -- want dialogue?

D: One thing is obvious at the moment -- the Hindus are on the defensive. They fear that dialogue is perhaps just a sort of way round to try and convert them to Christianity. ... But once they realize that you are intent on open dialogue, open to their own religious traditions, then the atmosphere changes and they are most interested. I was recently at a meeting in Sicily ... between Christian, Muslim and Jewish scholars. As soon as they heard that Christianity was open to admitting that there is something in their religions -- in the Quran for instance -- or as the pope [John Paul II] said so clearly recently that the covenant of God is Moses’ covenant -- their fears disappeared. ... If we take this attitude toward interreligious dialogue, there is no question whatsoever of diminishing the mystery of Jesus Christ, but it must be understood correctly, and not as excluding that God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are also present and active outside the boundaries of the church. That is of course what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is not prepared to accept.

K: Are there theologians from the Eastern world in the [congregation]? My fear is that they are all Western.
D: That is true. The bulk are Western. The result is that these matters are then discussed by people who all think alike. And the different theological schools of thought in the world are not represented. So it’s not surprising things are dealt with as they are in the [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith].

K: Was there no contact before Cardinal Tomko went to India to address the [Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences]? No contact with Indian bishops or with the Jesuits at de Nobili College in Pune for instance?
D: Absolutely none. The Indian bishops are rejected -- like Indian theologians and like Fr. Dupuis! I think one could say this goes for many Asian bishops and certainly theologians. You remember the lineamenta the Vatican published -- in English and French I think it was -- before the Synod on Asia. It was quite a thick booklet ... it more or less said that the Asian church must make greater efforts to evangelize. And you remember how the Japanese bishops completely rejected it [the lineamenta] and efforts by the Vatican to lay down the rules.

K: ... The next pope must work on the collegiality issue. You can’t just ignore the opinion of the Asian bishops before an Asian synod. I feel the history of the religions of mankind is a European product, a European way of thinking, of exploring. In recent centuries it has often reflected a tension between the Christian religion and science and the concept has changed as a result of the Christian religion’s stance against science. So we must go back to the natural situation -- man trying to find answers to the last big questions --
D: Nostra Aetate puts that very nicely, doesn’t it? It shows how all religions ask those decisive questions about man and the meaning of life, and so on. ... Over the centuries, there was an increasing tendency to exclusiveness -- Christianity as the only true religion, and so on. In a sense this started with Constantine once Christianity was not only accepted in the Empire but became the religion of the state. Now the Vatican II document on religious liberty did not use that expression -- that Christianity is the only true religion. Wouldn’t it be possible to state clearly and without ambiguity what is unique and new and original in Christianity without having to use exclusivist expressions such as “the only true religion”? That phrase sounds as if we have the monopoly and that is not true. ...

K: ... The Vatican II text that states that human beings are always looking for answers to the final questions could be our starting point.
D: It is very important to take what Pope John Paul II has said about the universal presence of the Holy Spirit very seriously. The conclusion follows that there must be salvific values in other religions. ... Fr. [Gerald] O’Collins, my dear friend and mentor, asked in a Tablet letter whether condemning Fr. Dupuis didn’t actually amount to condemning Pope John Paul II. I, naturally, consider this a very appropriate question, as to a certain extent it is surely true. ... If you take John Paul II’s very strong affirmation of the Holy Spirit seriously, then dialogue must be open. When in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio [1990] the pope says that the two elements -- dialogue and proclamation -- must retain their distinctiveness and should not be manipulated, that surely means that dialogue cannot be reduced to an instrument for proclamation as Cardinal Tomko would seem to see it.
K: Dialogue must be open. Fear is always a bad counsellor. An open attitude and not a closed mentality will help to give new depths to the Christian message. ...

[Here Cardinal Koenig refers to Jesuit Fr. Waldenfels in Bonn, Germany, who had “spent a long time in Japan” and who, in an article about Dupuis’ case in a German-language journal, had quoted Gottlieb Söhngen, a teacher of Cardinal Ratzinger, writing on a future Chinese theology: “The Chinese and other East Asians will have to analyze Western Christian theology from their Far Eastern point of view and not end up with a 50 percent Western and 50 percent Eastern mixture, which resembles a sort of chicken goulash. They will have to produce a new essence of Christian theology -- namely a Far Eastern theological view whose Far Eastern characteristics will really strike us hard so that we won’t know what day it is -- for the very reason that since the Greek philosophers, the eyes and ears of Western thinkers have developed differently.”]
D: [That] shows how well Waldenfels knows the situation in Asia. That is what so many curia cardinals lack -- they have no experience of living in the reality of the non-Christian world. Cardinal Tomko, Cardinal Bertone, Cardinal Ratzinger, what do they know about India? Have they ever even studied any of the great works of other religions -- with the exception of the Old Testament, which is not another religion but our elder brother as it were? Have they ever gone into Hindu religious literature in any detail? Quite apart from having entered into dialogue with Hindu religious leaders? It underlines the unfairness of Dominus Iesus.

K: I don’t think Dominus Iesus was carefully enough prepared. Cardinal Ratzinger admitted that when he said the [congregation] had not been prepared for the worldwide reactions. Before you compose a document like that, you have to take so much into consideration, particularly the language and the tone. Words like “deficient” for other religions, [words] which are derived from the Latin but have taken on a pejorative meaning in modern English, for instance. And, of course, it has a lot to do with psychology. You must consider who will read the Vatican document. Theologians shouldn’t address general audiences and Dominus Iesus was certainly intended for a general audience -- for bishops, theologians and for Catholics in general.
I think it’s time for a glass of wine. We’ve had a long day. And don’t worry, I’ll do my best to write on all this.

National Catholic Reporter, March 21, 2008

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