WASHINGTON (December 19, 2000) -- Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange, California, Chairman of the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA), announced formation of a Subcommittee on Interreligious Dialogue. This subcommittee will be the first constituted under the new statutes for the Conference approved by the Bishops at the November 2000 general meeting.
In a letter to Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, following the November meeting, Bishop Brown said: "Interreligious relations now involve such a significant portion of the agenda for our semiannual meetings that a separate subcommittee will help the BCEIA's work immensely and allow those several members of the bishops' conference directly involved in interreligious relations to be in regular contact to oversee these programs, dialogues, and developments in greater detail than is now possible for the whole committee to do."
In a letter of reply, Bishop Fiorenza commented: "I am pleased with this positive development and grateful to you and your committee for recognizing the increasing significance the program in interreligious relations has in the work of our Conference."
The Subcommittee on Interreligious Dialogue, appointed by the BCEIA Chairman, will be chaired by the current Episcopal Moderator for Interreligious Relations, Bishop Joseph J. Gerry, O.S.B., of Portland, Maine. Bishop Gerry served two five-year terms as a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and has convened interreligious dialogues and represented the bishops' conference at numerous interreligious activities in his twelve years as Moderator. As an advisor to Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, the network of Catholic monasteries of men and women promoting interreligious dialogue with monastics of other religions, Bishop Gerry was one of the speakers at the Gethsemani Encounter in 1996. That event brought together dozens of Buddhist and Catholic monastics for one week to dialogue on monastic life.
"It was my suggestion to Bishop Brown that he considers forming a subcommittee to review our increasing number of interreligious programs and events, to address more directly trends and developments, to educate ourselves in what we need to know in this multi religious society and in a world where so many religious groups are in serious contact, and to explore creative ways to promote interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding," Bishop Gerry stated. The BCEIA unanimously supported the recommendation at its October 11, 2000 meeting.
Accepting Bishop Brown's invitation to serve with Bishop Gerry as members of the Subcommittee on Interreligious Dialogue are: William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim, and Bishop Joseph F. Martino. Serving as consultants to the Subcommittee are: Bishop Kevin M. Britt and Bishop Ignatius A. Catanello, who serve as co-chairmen of two of the NCCB co-sponsored regional dialogues with Muslims, and Bishop Donald E. Pelotte, S.S.S.
Cardinal Keeler, Bishop Gerry, and Bishop Pelotte are also members of the BCEIA, and Cardinal Keeler is the Episcopal Moderator for Jewish relations. Relations with Jews will not be part of the new Subcommittee's responsibilities but will remain under the direct oversight of that Episcopal Moderator and the BCEIA. Dr. John Borelli, who has served as BCEIA staff for interreligious relations for 13 years, will staff the new Subcommittee.
Cardinal Keeler commented: "During my tenure as Committee Chairman in the mid-1980's, when the NCCB agreed to expand the BCEIA staff to include a special competence for interreligious concerns, I could see that there was enormous potential for programs for interreligious dialogue and relations in the United States. Over the past twelve years we have seen these programs grow and contribute very positively to cooperation and dialogue between us and Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and many others," he said.
"One of my first actions as BCEIA chairman," Bishop Brown observed, "was to join the multi religious delegation of the U. S. Conference on Religions for Peace (USCRP) to the seventh assembly of the World Conference on Religion and Peace in Amman, a year ago in November." "That was a very rewarding experience, especially to observe the good will, trust and cooperation evident in the U. S. delegation, and I know this new Subcommittee has very fruitful ground on which it can build successful programs."
Currently the annual programs and plans of the BCEIA include these interreligious activities: three regional dialogues with Muslims, one dialogue with Hindus, one or two opportunities for bilateral dialogue with Buddhists, meetings with various Catholic committees and groups promoting interreligious relations and dialogue, several multi religious consultations and meetings such as the USCRP meetings, and participation in several special interreligious events.
Dr. Borelli is also a consulter to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and is currently assisting that office with a project on the spirituality of interreligious dialogues.
For more information contact:
Dr. John Borelli
National Conference of Catholic Bishops