Contemporary life and societies throughout the world are increasingly pluralistic presenting us with the opportunity and need to learn about different faiths and faith cultures. The Catholic Church earnestly seeks avenues through which to understand and cope with the reality of religious pluralism, to explore its theological challenges and prospects, and to meet with religious neighbors in dialogue in order to work for a common future before God. The Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae makes clear that the functions of a Catholic University, in this regard, is to provide such avenues when it says, “In inter-religious dialogue [a Catholic university] will assist in discerning the spiritual values that are present in different religions.” (47)
In order to accomplish these goals, The Catholic University of America’s Institute for Interreligious Study and Dialogue (IISD) promotes interreligious scholarship and exchange in religion, theology and related disciplines, and across various religious traditions. It seeks to facilitate the academic study and communal practice of interreligious dialogue. IISD explores the impact of interreligious dialogue on faith traditions and how they might appropriate new insights or redefine themselves through it. It will undertake the tasks of providing opportunities and resources for gaining greater understanding of various religious traditions, recognizing the religious diversity of societies with its ramifications, and for meeting in dialogue with representatives of other religious communities.
While dialogue groups flourish around the country, the IISD has identified a need for a follow up process once participants return to their traditions or Churches. It considers it as essential to not only engage in interreligious dialogue, but also to have intra-religious dialogue in which people reflect with those of their own faith on their new information and experiences. Here at the Catholic University of America, we are committed to the values of the Roman Catholic tradition and the possibilities for its renewal through interreligious dialogue. At the IISD, we believe that inter- and intrareligious dialogue are critical for both social growth and timely development of core doctrines and practices.
The IISD will foster Catholic and ecumenical reflection on the theological and philosophical issues that flow from the study of the diversity of religion and find its discussions particularly in the areas of fundamental theology, pastoral theology, cross-cultural and comparative theology, spirituality, worship, and religious education, etc.
Among the Institute's activities and programs are:
- venues for academic exchange on theoretical and theological issues related to interreligious encounter, such as seminars, workshops, and visiting professorships;
- promotion of comparative study programs and interreligious research projects in conjunction with scholars, students, and resource persons from CUA and the academic community of the Greater Washington, DC area;
- opportunities for church members, especially clergy, volunteers, employees, and religious educators;
- to receive training in the pastoral aspects of interreligious encounter, which will enable them better to serve the church in a pluralistic world; and
- events to foster interreligious dialogue with representatives of other faiths.
The primary purpose of the IISD’s endeavors will be to equip Christians to understand their neighbors in the religious community, work productively together with them, and formulate a theology that will provide guidance in assimilating the fact of religious pluralism into Catholic thought and practice. In order to ensure that its work will be of benefit to the church at large, the IISD will cooperate with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Washington Theological Consortium.