Being in dialogue with Christians of other confessions means learning to become partners rather than adversaries. Dialogue is not a process of making mutual concessions, as in diplomacy. The important thing is to seek together to discover as fully as possible the face of Christ, his will for the world, for the Church, for the entire human family. No tradition can claim to possess everything of Christ. When we become aware of this, we discover that we need one another so that Christ’s face can shine with its full splendor. “Christianity,” said a theologian of the twentieth century, “is the religion whose distinctive character it is to consider everything along the lines of ‘not without others’” The world has an urgent need for what can come from Christians who know how to value their gifts and put them in common. For this reason Brother Alois wrote in the Call for the reconciliation of Christians: “How can we respond to the new challenges of our societies, notably that of secularization and of mutual understanding between cultures, unless we bring together the gifts of the Holy Spirit placed in all the Christian families?”
There was a time when a relationship of antagonism determined every encounter between Christians of different denominations. Very little true “dialogue” existed, but instead “monologues side-by-side.” Instead of looking for the portion of truth found in the others, people strove to defend the opposite viewpoint at all costs. In that way many caricatures and stereotypes came into being, artificial oppositions from which we still find it hard to escape today. All that has led to mutual impoverishment, not only because the gifts of others are neglected but also because the determination to oppose others causes us to interpret our own tradition in a way that deforms it.
If I do not try to discover others with the best of what they have in them, I am not in dialogue. I have to learn how to listen. I am not asked to deny the truth, to agree with everything. But it may happen that I am called to acknowledge that there can be another way of framing problems, other starting-points and conclusions that have their legitimacy, other words at the service of the faith. The more I am firmly attached to what is essential, the less I will be afraid to accept diverse understandings that do not threaten that essential.
To dialogue as partners we must learn not to find our identity in isolation or in opposition to others, but in relationship and sharing. That resembles life much more closely!