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Facing the true problem

by
07 November 2006

iStock

Interfaith Dialogue: A Catholic view
Michael L. Fitzgerald and John Borelli
SPCK £16.99 (0-281-05383-9)
Church Times Bookshop £15.30

Living with Faith: Journeys towards trust, friendship and justice
Barbara Butler
Inspire £6.99
(1-85852-306-0)

Andrew Wingate draws inspiration from books on faith and friendship

Andrew Wingate draws inspiration from books on faith and friendship

THE FIRST of these two books shows clearly how what is called “Catholic” here is in fact “catholic” in the wider sense of that word.

Last year we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the publication of Nostra Aetate, the document from Vatican II which, in a few pages, revolutionised the understanding of that Church in its relationship with other faiths. The Church moved from exclusivism to inclusivism, affirming that God does not reject whatever is good and true in other faiths. This position has been nuanced and affirmed ever since. To the encouragement of those of us working in this field, Pope Benedict has shown little sign of retreating from this.

Interfaith Dialogue, a series of articles and talks by its two very different authors, shows how much has happened since 1965. Michael Fitzgerald was with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue from 1987 until 2006, when he became Papal Nuncio in Egypt. These articles reveal the theological integrity and practical wisdom that make him respected across the Churches.

His co-author, John Borelli, decided against becoming a priest, and dedicated his life to this field, within the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and now at George-town University in Washington DC. The first two essays are autobio-graphical; both are passionate and reveal a strong sense of mission, inspired explicitly by Nostra Aetate.

The essays are divided into three sections — dialogue in general, Muslim-Christian relations, and wider horizons. The first contains the best of catholic applied theology, and Borelli’s contributions show how such theology is earthed in engagement within the United States. This is salutary, when there is so much negative stereotyping of America.

The second section contains an essay on Muslims in Europe, and also the text of a challenging talk given by Fitzgerald in Bath in 2004, on Mary as a figure of reconciliation between Muslims and Christians.

The last section contains such varied themes as interreligious prayer, the place of Christ, funda-mentalism, Buddhist-Christian dialogue in the US, and forgive-ness. The book lives up to its final sentence, where it is said of Thomas Merton: “The prophet is not necessarily one who has the correct response to everything; he is one who knows, at a precise moment in history, the true problems which humanity has to face, the goals to be sought, the real questions to be put.”

Barbara Butler’s book is also inspirational, though not systematic in the catholic way of the other. The book comes out of Christians Aware, the organisation that she has inspired and driven for at least 20 years. It is about engagement, and story- and awareness-building, which are the themes of this rather diffuse book. What comes through is the author’s passion for her theme, and her indefatigable zeal.

She is a global Christian, and her book contains a myriad illustrations from across the world, as well as from our own cities, as it ranges over all the great faiths. As Eric Lott says in his foreword, it is in fine opposition to fear, arrogance and exclusiveness. Its apt title implies that living with faith means the faith of the other as well as my own. And the subtitle reveals the balance of this book’s concerns: “journeys towards trust, friendship and justice”. The final pages contain useful short outlines on each faith and its community.

The two books will satisfy different constituencies. The first reveals the tradition from which it comes, and the theological seriousness underlying the praxis portrayed. The second is experi-ential. Each chapter merges into the next in its conversational style, and theology is normally implicit rather than explicit.

The Revd Andrew Wingate is Director of the St Philip’s Centre and Canon Theologian, in Leicester.

To place an order for the book mentioned above, email details to CT Bookshop

 

The Revd Andrew Wingate is Director of the St Philip’s Centre and Canon Theologian, in Leicester.

To place an order for the book mentioned above, email details to CT Bookshop

 

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