The Catholic University of America

Understanding and Spiritual Growth through Interreligious Dialogue - Michael Sims

On October 25th, 2012, the Institute for Interreligious Study and Dialogue (IISD) held its opening event, “Understanding and Spiritual Growth Through Interreligious Dialogue,” in the Happel Room in Caldwell Hall.  The event, celebrating the renewal of the IISD, was opened by Rev. Mark Morozowich, S.E.O.D., Dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies.  Fr. Morozowich discussed the IISD as reflecting the labors of theologians who seek to penetrate the mystery of God, and how interreligious engagement may aid us by letting us see our spiritual brothers’ and sisters’ ways of worshipping God.

Dr. Pim Valkenberg, Director of the Institute for Interreligious Study and Dialogue, then introduced the first speaker, Bishop Dennis Madden, who currently serves as the Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore. Bishop Madden, who was ordained an Auxiliary Bishop in 2005, was ordained into the priesthood 1967 and holds a master’s degree in psychology from Columbia University and a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Notre Dame. Along with his ecclesiastical duties he has served as a clinical psychologist, marriage and family counselor, and has taught as a professor within University of Maryland’s School of Medicine. From 1994-1996 he served as the Director of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine office in Jerusalem. 1996-2005 he served as Associate Secretary General of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Drawing upon his experience, he related the importance of listening within dialogue.  He discussed how through his long service, including service within the dialogue of charity, he has learned the importance of listening.  Speaking about Saint Benedict’s call to “bend close the ear of your heart,” he discussed how as a novice he learned the importance of listening to the instruction the master who provides the first steps on our spiritual journey, who we must truly open ourselves to.  In listening intently, we can see that there is more that unites us than divides, and can understand one another more fully.  Bishop Madden reminded the audience that God speaks to us through the other, and that dialogue with God and with the other are related, and that the good example of the other is a good example for us.  Listening enables us to better learn the truth of peace, then the truth of love, and finally the truth of God.  

The second speaker was Dr. John Borelli, who has since 2004 served as Special Assistant for Interreligious Initiatives to Dr. John J. DeGioia, President of Georgetown University.  Dr. Borelli, who holds a PhD in the history of religions and theology, previously served 11 years as Director of Religious Studies at the College of Mount St. Vincent.  From 1987-2003 he served as associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligous Affairs, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and as consulter to the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.  Dr. Borelli discussed the importance of listening by exploring historical examples which demonstrate how good listeners have furthered interfaith dialogue.  The current engagement of the Catholic Church in interfaith dialogue can be traced in part to interaction between Pope Pius XII and Jewish scholar and Holocaust survivor Jules Isaac.  Their dialogue led to reflection on how the Church addressed the Jewish people, in part leading to the creation of Nostra Aetate.  Dr. Borelli also discussed figures such as Louis Massignon, whose willingness to listen and seek to better understand Islam not only renewed his own Christian faith and additionally helped promote the language of Nostra Aetate.