We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Spirit of Dialogue

Pope Francis I  continues to say things that progressive and moderate American Catholics must find gratifying and exciting.  He and his views are certainly not what was expected from the next pope when Benedict announced his retirement.  In a recent interview that Francis gave to the Italian newspaper, La Republica, as reported in a Huffington Post posting (here), he is quoted as saying,
Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.
There could hardly be a better description of the spirit of dialogue, which is a process of listening, reflecting, sharing, and listening again aimed at closing the gap between individuals, classes, parties, and ultimately nations.  It lies at the heart of the political art of compromise and international diplomacy at their best.  The absence of this spirit of dialogue can have devastating consequences, as we are seeing now in Congress' abject failure to listen, reflect, share, and listen again.  On the other hand, a pope dedicated to dialogue is good news and is likely to have positive consequences for as long as Francis is pope—and beyond.  Amen.