03/18/2009, 00.00
INDIA

Archbishop Machado: Interreligious dialogue and evangelization, a task for Christians in India

by Nirmala Carvalho
Speaking to 650 bishops and priests of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, the archbishop of Nasik asserts: "God can never become a negotiable item." India's pluralist society offers Christians a great opportunity for enrichment.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "For Christians, engagement in interreligious encounters is a way of ‘being’ in pluralistic society." Felix Machado, the archbishop of Nasik, invites Indian Catholics never to forget that "faith must be lived in its integrity" in a world that has become a "map of religions."

The former undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, speaking to more than 650 bishops and priests of the Conference of Catholic Bishps of India, on the occasion of the national meeting on "The Church’s Social Doctrine on the Civilization of Peace," recalled that for Christians, "interreligious encounters are intrinsically linked to their faith." Without faith, "encounters cannot be genuine," and a believer will not be "credible" if he is not capable of providing reasons for that in which he believes. "It is not a matter of losing one’s own identity, but of taking the form and likeness of the other," Machado emphasized. "It is a humble love that fosters dialogue."

For Machado, interreligious dialogue is not motivated by simple sociological reasons, but above all has theological roots, "because we come from God and we return to God." In the plurality of faiths and beliefs spread all over India, the archbishop of Nasik sees a great opportunity for Christians to be enriched. "In our encounter with Hindus," Machado says, "we may be struck by such spiritual values as that of their sense of the sacred and of the divine. In meeting Buddhists, we may discover their efforts for the search for final liberation in an apophatic Absolute, called sunyata (void), and the development of inner life through the many forms of meditation. The basis for a dialogue with Confucianism may stem from the importance attributed to interpersonal relations and social cohesion. In the dialogue with Islam, Christians may be attracted by the faith in one only God, the creator and judge of all."

Christians must "nourish" interreligious dialogue "with solid spiritual food." "God can never become a negotiable item or a marginal thought in our interreligious encounters," the bishop says. "He is at the centre or like a foundation of all interreligious encounters."

Archbishop Machado reiterated that evangelization is always an active task for Catholics, and this is not a matter of "adding some decoration or applying a coat of colour, but in depth, going to the very centre and roots of life." "The Gospel must impregnate the culture and the whole way of life of man," asserts the bishop of Nasik. "This work must always take the human person as its starting point, coming back to the interrelationships between persons and their relation with God."

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