This year’s pastoral priority in the Church of the Philippines–Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples–has been somehow eclipsed due to the coronavirus pandemic that forced the closure of churches and adjustment to online religious activities.
Nevertheless, it is the theme chosen by the Filipino bishops who declared 2020 as the “Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous People” in preparation for the celebration of the 500 years of Christianity in the country in 2021.
With the title “Dialogue towards Harmony,” this special year focuses on dialogue at the service of mission and evangelization. Dialogue “as an attitude of respect and friendship should permeate all those activities constituting the evangelizing mission of the Church,” writes Msgr. Romulo Valles, Archbishop of Davao and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, in a letter spelling out the aim of this year’s pastoral initiative. The missive invites Catholics to engage in dialogue and collaboration with the faithful of other religions and cultures.
Dialogue, in its four aspects of “dialogue of life, dialogue of action, dialogue of theological exchange and dialogue of religious experience,” is for the good of the whole humanity in its effort at living in harmony and unity. Archbishop Valles emphasizes the need to “practice fraternity by embracing all human beings and trying to be united and treating each other with respect.”
At the root of ecumenism and exchange with other religions and indigenous people lies love, the love that comes from God. It is a love that loves the enemies and is willing to suffer and even die for others.
Jesus Christ embodies such love by assuming our sins, forgiving everyone, including those who crucified Him, and reconciling humanity with God the Father. Unless we have this kind of love, we cannot go far in pursuing dialogue with those with whom we differ in matters of faith.
Our imitation of Jesus, as the Son of God who emptied Himself by becoming man and offering His life on the cross, is the true secret for having a meaningful dialogue. This type of dialogue is challenging as it not only demands interchange with those who are different from us but also think differently in matters of faith and morals.
We hope and pray that in this “Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples,” the faithful may journey together in achieving harmony, justice and peace.