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Bishop Michael McKenna is greeted by Pope Francis prior to the commencement of the the Plenary Assembly of the Dicastery for Inter-religious Dialogue held in Rome from 6 to 8 June 2022

Bishop McKenna with Cardinal Tagle in Rome for the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue

The following is a summary of Bishop Michael McKenna’s intervention at the Plenary Assembly of the Dicastery for Inter-religious Dialogue held in Rome from 6 to 8 June 2022

Background: The Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue supports Pope Francis’ ministry of dialogue with followers of other religions. It is the central office of the Church for the promotion of interreligious dialogue in accordance with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, in particular the declaration Nostra aetate. It is responsible for promoting mutual understanding, respect, and collaboration between Catholics and followers of other religious traditions; encouraging the study of religions; and promoting the formation of persons dedicated to dialogue.

Context: The Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, presided over by Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot M.C.C.J., President, held its Plenary Session in Rome on the theme “Interreligious dialogue and conviviality,” on 6-8 June 2022. The theme was addressed through presentations by Dicastery members from different geographical areas, including Bishop Michael McKenna, and through moments of reflection and exchange between the participants.

Australia is a self-consciously multi-cultural nation of immigrants, who began arriving on the continent 234 years ago. In the context of our theme of “conviviality”, these were uninvited guests, who then behaved badly. Today, we are walking with the first peoples of our land on a journey of reconciliation. Some of the insights into the possibilities and difficulties of living together, in diverse situations around the world, that we have listened to at this meeting offer us wisdom worth pondering.

The part of the world we call Oceania is already experiencing the effects of climate change in more catastrophic floods and fires and droughts. The island nations of the western Pacific are existentially threatened by rising sea levels. As we gather here to talk about living together in human fraternity, the words of Pope Francis about caring for our “common home” impel us to more fervent cooperation.

The largest and fastest growing religious group in Australia is, as we have heard to be so in other countries represented at this meeting, “no religion”. This is sometimes accompanied by an aggressively secularist push to drive religion from public discourse, or even to seek to restrict religious activities. More deeply, it is accompanied by a loss of confidence in the possibility of transcendent truth. This offers an opportunity for serious interreligious dialogue in which believers of different traditions can meet one another as fellow seekers after truth, sharing with one another the nourishment of what they have learnt along the way.

+Michael McKenna

Bishop of Bathurst

July 2022