Issue Date: March 21, 2008
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. ...
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! Youll never get permission to stay -- not ever
again. And that although Id 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
D: Does everyone in Rome want that kind of dialogue?
D: Please, you must write on all this.
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.
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 conferences 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, arent they?
D: The 1986 Assisi meeting was most important but
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. Its not meant to be a pointless chat, after all. The aim is to
convince ones partner of the soundness of ones arguments. But the
opposite also applies. One must equally be prepared to allow oneself to be
convinced of the soundness of ones partners 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.
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: 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?
Christa Pongratz-Lippitt: Are there no cardinals in Rome who
think like you?
K: Couldnt 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: 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 churchs 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
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 its 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 churchs mission.
K: What youre 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: Its Page 366 [and the following pages]. Thats
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: 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
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? ...
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: What is true is that revelation in Jesus Christ is unsurpassed
and unsurpassable as divine revelation in history.
D: They want to say absolute, definitive
and all the rest because they dont want to accept that revelation may be
found outside Christianity.
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.
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
K: ... The next pope must work on the collegiality issue. You
cant 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 religions stance against
science. So we must go back to the natural situation -- man trying to find
answers to the last big questions --
K: ... The Vatican II text that states that human beings are
always looking for answers to the final questions could be our starting
[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 wont know what day it is -- for the very
reason that since the Greek philosophers, the eyes and ears of Western thinkers
have developed differently.]
K: I dont 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
shouldnt address general audiences and Dominus Iesus was certainly
intended for a general audience -- for bishops, theologians and for Catholics
National Catholic Reporter, March 21, 2008
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