Dialogue and Christian unity

Jesús Morán. Photo © 2018 World Council of Churches

«Progress in travel and information technology all of a sudden has caused the universe to shrink in size. Distance no longer poses such an obstacle to contact between different peoples as it did in the past.” At the same time, argued the 20th century French anthropologist, Roger Bastide, this multiplying of relationships “all too often results in a multiplying of barriers and of misunderstandings”. With this quotation, Jesús Morán, speaking to the WCC conference in Geneva, opened his contribution on “dialogue” viewed as an emerging, if not yet fully developed, characteristic of our times. «Now more than ever, humanity is ready to be itself» declared Dr Morán, “while at the same time it’s seemingly unable to respond to its own vocation».

The conference was reflecting on the friendship and fruitful collaboration between Chiara Lubich (and the Focolare Movement) and the World Council of Churches. Formed in 1948, the WCC has espoused dialogue as a principle tool in its indefatigable work towards unity among Christian churches. Dialogue, argues the Focolare Co-President, is so deeply rooted in human nature that it can be traced back to all cultures, east, west, north and south.

Christians find the “key” to dialogue in the person of Jesus: mutual love, losing one’s own life with a love which reaches the point of experiencing abandonment. «What are the main qualities of a culture of dialogue?» asks Dr Morán. «Firstly, dialogue is an indelible part of human nature. We actually become more ourselves as human beings through dialogue».

Secondly, «in dialogue, each person is made complete by the gift of the other. We need each other in order fully to be ourselves. In dialogue, I make a gift of my ‘otherness’, of my being different to the other person». Indeed, «every occasion of dialogue is a personal encounter. Hence, it’s not so much about words or thoughts, but rather a matter of giving our very being. Dialogue is not simply ‘conversation’, even less ‘discussion’, but rather it’s something which touches at the very heart of those involved». «Dialogue requires silence and the ability to listen», he continues. It is «an existential factor, because (in dialogue) we put at risk our very selves, our vision of things, our own ‘identity’, our cultural identity and even our ecclesial identity. Yet none of these, in fact, is lost but rather enriched by such openness».

«Authentic dialogue deals in truth. It always goes more deeply into the truth. […] Everyone who participates puts in common with the others their own participation in the truth, which is one for everybody». Such dialogue, continues Dr Morán, requires great strength of will, what Chiara Lubich referred to as “making yourself one, as deeply as possible”. «The sublime and mysterious model of this dynamic of love is, as we know, Jesus Forsaken. He truly represents the risk of ‘otherness’ which brings us to reciprocity. […] His ‘losing’ won for us – and in us – an eternal space of light and Truth: the Holy Spirit». Another point to note is that «dialogue is only possible among real and true people» in accordance with a particular law, the law of reciprocity which confers legitimacy and meaning.

Jesús Morán goes on to outline a further aspect, one that characterizes the Focolare’s contribution to progress towards Christian unity, namely “the dialogue of life”. This encourages «relationships to be based on the Gospel, on the exchange of experiences, on sharing what is most precious with brothers and sisters of another Church». He quoted Catholic theologian Cardinal Walter Kasper, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: “Ecumenism of love and ecumenism of truth, important as they are, must be implemented by means of an ecumenism of life”. Dr Morán observes, «we must recognise that this dimension – vital to dialogue – is not devoid of theological thought. Rather, it is situated on a more primal, deeply rooted level of it. Only through this dimension, in fact, can one then gain access in a truly beneficial way to the level of theological reasoning». «Dialogue – concludes Dr Morán – is the ‘rhythm’ of trinitarian relationships, a continual exchange of roles and of gifts. […]

Nothing gets lost. Dialogue’s risk contains all of ourselves and all of the other, in the transcendent ‘space’ of the Holy Spirit which we all share. This includes the whole of humanity. Those who dialogue are making history».

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