Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

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On Pentecost Sunday, 1964, Pope Paul VI instituted a special department of the Roman Curia for relatons with the people of other religions. Know at first as the Secretariat for Non Christians, in 1988 it was renamed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID).

A) Nature and Goals of PCID

The PCID is the central office of the Catholic Church for the promotion of interreligious dialogue in accordance with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, in particular the declaration "Nostra Aetate". It has the following responsabilities:

1) to promote mutual understanding, respect and collaboration between Catholics and the followers of others religious traditions;

2) to encourage the study of religions;

3) to promote the formation of persons dedicated to dialogue.

N.B. It should be noted that the PCID does not have responsability for Christian-Jewish relations. These are the competence of the Commission for religious Relations with Jews, which comes under the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

B) Methodology of PCID

1) Dialogue is a two-way communication. It implies speaking and listening, giving and receiving, for mutual growth and enrichment. It includes witness to one's own faith as well as an openess to that of the other. It is not a betrayal of mission of the Church, nor is it a new method of conversion to Christianity. This has been clearly stated in the encyclical letter of Pope John Paul II "Redemptoris Missio". This view is also developed in the two documents produced by the PCID: The Attitude of the Catholic Church towards the Followers of Other Religious Traditions: reflections on Dialogue and Mission (1984), e Dialogue and Proclamation (1991).

2) Although the PCID is the central office for dialogue in the Catholic Church, dialogue is mainly carried out in and through the Local Churches. Many Local Churches have dialogue commissions, at the national or regional level. The PCID works in close collaboration with these, and encourages their formation where they do not yet exist.

3) The ecumenical dimension of interreligious dialogue is kept in mind. The PCID has an ongoing relationship with the corresponding office in the World Council of Churches.

4) The PCID restricts itself to religious questions. Its brief does not extend to socio-political issues. The Roman Curia has various departments, each with its own specific competence. Broader issues are discussed in inter-departmental meetings.

C) Structure of the PCID

1) Decision-making body: this is composed of the Members of the Council, about 30 in number, Cardinals and Bishops, from different parts of the world. Every two or three years a Plenary Assembly is held in order to discuss important issues and to set guidelines for the work of the Council.

2) Advisory body: the PCID has about 50 advisors, called Consultors, specialists in religious studies or in the practice of interreligious dialogue, residing in all continents. They assist the PCID through their research, information and suggestions. Periodically meetings of Consultors are held, often on a continental level.

3) Executive body: the permanent staff in Rome, made up of President, Secretary, Under-Secretary, bureau chief for Islam, staff members for Africa and Asia, a staff member for New Religious ovements, an administrative assistant and support staff.

D) Activities

1) Welcoming Visitors. The PCID receives many visits from religious leaders. They are invited to dialogue with staff members. Where appropriate Audiences are arranged with H.H. the Pope. There are also meetings with bishops coming to Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visits, and with other groups of visitors.

2) Visits. The President and the Secretary visit local Churches to become more familiar with the local situation and to encourage dialogue. On these occasions they visit leaders of other religions and different institutions in order to promote better understanding and collaboration.

3) Meetings. The Council organizes dialogue meetings, or more often participates in such meetings organized by oher bodies, at regional, national or international levels. These meetings may be bilateral or multilateral.


4) Publications. A number of books and pamphlets have been published on different aspects of interreligious dialogue. The Council usually publishes the Acts of the dialogue meetings it organizes. A bulletin, called "Pro Dialogo", is published regularly three times a year, containing significant Church texts on dialogue, articles, and news of dialogue activities throughout the world. An Interreligious Dialogue Directory has also been published.

E) Commission for religious relations with Muslims

The PCID has a special commission for relations with Muslims. This is composed of a President, Vice-President and Secretary, and has a small group of eight Consultors. It engages in studies on different aspects of Christian-Muslim relations.

F) Foundation "Nostra Aetate"

The PCID has set up a Foundation whose purpose is to promote dialogue, mainly by according grants to people of other religious who wish to study Christianity.