Manila (Agenzia Fides) - All Filipinos are called to build a better society through fraternal love and interreligious dialogue: this is the appeal issued by Archbishop Romulo G. Valles, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, in the Pastoral Letter published by the Bishops on the occasion of the special "Year of ecumenism, interreligious dialogue and indigenous peoples", launched by the Filipino Catholic Church on 1 December, in preparation for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the advent of Christianity in the country, which is celebrated in 2021. As Agenzia Fides learns, the central theme, chosen for the Year, is taken from the Gospel of John "May they all be one" (Jn 17:21).
"Fraternal love also requires us to walk together in building a better world while preserving the name of justice and mercy, the bases of prosperity and the cornerstone of faith", the Bishops write in the letter sent to Agenzia Fides. "The authentic religious teachings invite us to remain rooted in the values of peace, to always be ready to ask forgiveness for our mistakes, to be ready to forgive others for the evil they have done to us", they add.
The Bishops cite "the recent apostolic visit of Pope Francis to the Middle East, Thailand and Japan, which promoted a culture of encounter and solidarity" and recognize "the challenges of coexistence among different faiths as we build unity and harmony in the community".
"An open, honest, loving, respectful dialogue of life, prayer and action is the only path to harmony in the community. Great values: peace and harmony are at stake - the letter notes - particularly in areas of armed conflict; solidarity in the struggle for social change; caring for social ills; integrity and social justice in our land".
In this context "the Church urges the faithful to collaborate with people of other religions and cultures. Christians, while witnessing to their faith and their way of life, recognize, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths that are found among the peoples of other faiths and traditions, and also their social and cultural life", reads the text.
According to the Bishops, "interreligious dialogue does not simply aim at mutual understanding and friendly relations. It reaches a much deeper level, the spiritual level, in which exchange and sharing consist in a mutual testimony of one's own convictions and in a common, respectful and empathic exploration of the respective religious convictions".
The Church has proposed four forms of dialogue: the dialogue of life, in which people strive to live in a spirit of openness and closeness; the dialogue of action, in which believers collaborate for integral development and human promotion; the dialogue of theological exchange, in which specialists try to deepen their understanding of their respective religious and spiritual heritage and values; the dialogue of religious experience, in which the faithful share their spiritual riches, for example with regard to prayer, faith, contemplation of God.
"The ultimate goal of dialogue - notes the text - is that the whole of humanity lives in harmony and fraternal love. This fraternal love will guarantee peace in our land, which actually seems elusive", they say, recalling the challenges and conflicts still present in Philippine territory. In conclusion, the Bishops, on the occasion of the Year of Dialogue and Ecumenism, exhort all men and women of good will to "live in harmony, asking to respect each other's differences and to protect the rights and freedoms of the entire humanity". (SD) (Agenzia Fides, 5/12/2019)