Chapter 3



The pre-suppositions of dialogue

Religious liberty

The possibility of salvation for non-Christians

Recognition of values in other religions


Mission and dialogue

Muslim-Christian dialogue: a special challenge to Africans

Countries with Christian or Muslim minorities

Countries where Christians and Muslims are nearly equal

Forms of dialogue

The language of resistance

The language of cooperation

The language of affirmation

The language of example and sharing experiences

The language of proclamation

The language of dialogue


What is the real meaning of inter-religious dialogue as a pastoral necessity for the Church today?  What are the particular challenges of Muslim-Christian dialogue?  And what are the characteristics of this dialogue in Africa?

These are the questions we raise here.  They are certainly complex, but very pressing.  Dialogue is one area of theology that has undergone most development the past three decades, both in theory and in pastoral practice.

The pre-suppositions of dialogue

Dialogue presupposes three things: 1) toleration or, in the better terminology of Vatican II, religious liberty.[2]  2) Then, because it is possible to avoid interfering in the beliefs of another while still being convinced that he is on the road to damnation, dialogue presupposes also a recognition that the members of another religion can be on the way of salvation.  3) Since the influence of the Holy Spirit should be manifest in such people=s lives and religious practices, dialogue attempts to recognize these values, which, it must be admitted, these religions mediate.

I will only make a summary of what others have already extensively said about these presuppositions.  For each one I refer to the Bible, the traditions and historical practices of the Church, and above all the teachings of Vatican II and subsequent developments.

Religious liberty

To support the first presupposition, Vatican II, in Nostra Aetate has a section with philosophical arguments, and another with biblical arguments.  The history of religious liberty in the Church has gone through an evolution.  The Fathers of the Church claimed freedom for the Church, but were not so eager to offer it to non-Christians who were astray from the truth.[3]  The particular policies of the Church regarding toleration of non-Christians were codified in the Decretals of Gratian, and were adopted by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae, II-II, q.10-12, in the context of his discussion on faith.  Up until modern times the Church never had an idea of a secular state.  The state was either for or against God and the Church.  According to St. Thomas, faith may not be imposed, but once it is accepted, a Catholic was not free to leave the Church.  Also, non-Christians and heretics had no right to make propaganda among the Catholics.

The next stage of the Church=s thought came in the 19th century, after anti-clerical regimes softened and the Church found itself under secular governments which gave it some freedom.  A practical accommodation was justified under the theory of the thesis and the hypothesis, that is, the ideal is a state which recognizes Catholicism as its official religion, but it is legitimate to accept a compromise in the meantime.  This theory was very embarrassing in countries like the United States, where Catholics were accused of waiting for a chance to grab power and suppress other religions.  The thought of theologians such as John Courtney Murray prepared the way for the decisive position of Nostra Aetate and thus removed a big obstacle to dialogue.

The possibility of salvation for non-Christians

Likewise, the question of recognizing values and truths in other religions has undergone an evolution.  In the Bible we can see two different perspectives.  There is a narrow one which, in the Old Testament, focuses exclusively on God=s mercy to the Jews, and in the New Testament, to Christians.  Another perspective, rooted particularly in the wisdom tradition sees a plan of salvation for all.  This viewpoint goes back to God=s covenant with Noah and found expression in reference to the holy pagans of the Old Testament.[4]

In the New Testament one can likewise notice on the one hand the accent on proclamation in Acts and in Paul, while on the other hand the letters of Peter emphasize witnessing.[5]  A theology of witnessing focuses on the cosmic Christ who is at work beyond whatever we say or do, whereas a theology of proclamation concentrates on the historic Christ and the Church which concretely mediates his presence and action today.

Not only in Peter, but throughout the New Testament there are allusions to the cosmic work of Christ.  A few examples may illustrate this: AGod so loved the world...@ (Jn 3:16); Jesus is Athe Saviour of the world@ (Jn 4:42); he has Aother sheep which are not of this flock@ (Jn 10:16).  AGod wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth (1 Tim 2:4).  Jesus Aoffered himself as a ransom for all@ (1 Tim 2:6).  AWhen gentiles, not having the Law, still through their own innate sense behave as the Law commands, then, even though they have no Law, they are a law for themselves.  They can demonstrate the effect of the Law engraved on their hearts, to which their own conscience bears witness@ (Rm 2:14-15).  Cornelius=s prayers were accepted before he knew of Christ (Acts 10:4); similarly people of the Old Testament are praised for their living faith (Heb 11). The explicit faith of those who say ALord, Lord@ is not enough (Mt 7:21), but at the last judgement Jesus the King will welcome those who had been showing mercy to his little ones without knowing that they were doing it to him (Mt 25:31-46); these could not be Christians, since every Christian should be aware that his kindness to others is kindness to Jesus.

One could also study the gift of the Spirit who blows where he wills (Jn 3:8) and jumps ahead of the Church=s preaching (Acts 10:36).  The theme of the coming of the Kingdom of God also points to an independent universal work of God outside the boundaries of the Church.[6]

One could also make a study of the opinions of the Fathers of the Church on the salvation of non-Christians.[7]  One example is the answer of St. Augustine to the objection that Christianity was slow in appearing in history.  He says that Afrom the beginning of the human race, there were people who believed in Jesus Christ, knew him and lived a good and devout life according to his commandments.  No matter when or where they lived, they without doubt were saved by him.@[8]

St. Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologiae, II-II, question 2, article 7, raises the question whether those who never heard the Gospel can be saved, and explains that they can, Aif they have implicit faith through believing in divine providence, since they believed that God would deliver mankind in whatever way was pleasing to Him, and according to the revelation of the Spirit to those who knew the truth,@  People who believe in Christ in this implicit way really belong to the New Testament.[9]

Vatican II clearly says that AThose who for no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their action to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience──those too may achieve eternal salvation.@[10]  St. Thomas explains more explicitly how that can happen when he asks whether someone in a state of original sin can commit a venial sin without committing a mortal sin.  He says no, since Aonce a man has come to the age of being able to reason... the first thing he can think about is his own condition.  If he turns his will to the right purpose of life, grace comes in and removes original sin; otherwise he sins mortally@ (I-II, 89:6).  Knowledge of the Aright purpose@ supposes an implicit faith in Christ.

Some contemporary moralists, such as Bernard Häring,[11] developed a similar idea in their theory of Afundamental option@, but this theory does not agree altogether with the thinking of Thomas Aquinas.

The Church has always been open to the theoretical possibility of salvation for non-Christians, but the practical judgement varied from one time and place to another.  St. Francis Xavier supposed that the thousands of Asians to whom he preached would not be saved unless they accepted the Christian Faith and were baptized.  The Jesuit missionaries of the 17th century were more broad-minded.  Yet in the 18th and 19th centuries the view prevailed that only Christians could be saved.[12]  Pius IX had to insist that those who followed the divine law written in their hearts would reach eternal life by divine grace.[13]

The theological peak of the Vatican II Council was the statement on non-Christians in Gaudium et spes, n. 22:

By his incarnation the son of God has in a certain way united himself with each man...  This holds true not for Christians only but also for all men of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly.  For since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery.[14]

This was not an easy position to take, since the possibility of salvation for everyone has to be reconciled with the unique mediation of Christ and the teaching that Aoutside the Church there is no salvation@.  At the beginning of the Council Karl Rahner stated that religious pluralism should be more a threat and a reason for worry for Christianity than for any other religion.  That is because no other religion, even Islam, maintains so absolutely that it is the only true religion, having the only valid revelation of the living God, as does the Christian religion.[15]

A balance between the uniqueness of the Christian way and the work of the Spirit outside the Church is reflected in the writings of the Popes after the Council.  John-Paul II=s Redemptor hominis is the most notable statement on the subject.  In numbers 8 and 9 he summarizes Gaudium et spes, n.22, and then says:

This concerns every person whatsoever, since all are included in the mystery of the Redemption and by the grace of this mystery Christ has joined himself with all for all time... They all participate in this mystery from the moment they are conceived in the womb of their mother. (n.13).

Every person, with no exception, has been redeemed by Christ, since Christ has been joined with every person, without exception, even though the person may not be conscious of this. (n.14)[16]

Since the union of Christ with each person, which the Holy Father is speaking about, does not necessarily demand the presence of sanctifying grace, but only opens the possibility for it, so also the statement that this union with Christ begins with conception, leaves open the question whether everyone receives sanctifying grace at his conception, before any act of his reason.

Speaking to the Cardinals and the Curia after religious gathering at Assisi, John-Paul II repeated certain points:

There is only one divine plan for every person who comes into this world... Since there is no man or woman who does not bear the sign of a divine origin, likewise no person can remain outside or on the fringe of the work of Jesus Christ, Awho died for all@ and is thus Athe Saviour of the world@ (Jn 4:42).  AWe must therefore hold that the Holy Spirit gives to all, in a way that God knows, the possibility of being associated with the Paschal mystery.@ (Gaudium et spes, 22).

Then the Pope applies these principles to the situation of religious pluralism:

People can often be unaware of their radical unity of origin, and of their destiny and inclusion in God=s own plan.  While they profess different religions which are incompatible with one another they can think that their divisions are insurmountable.  But in spite of that they are included in the great and unique plan of God in Jesus Christ, who Ain some way is united to all people@ (Gaudium & spes, 22), even if they are not conscious of this.[17]

Again, in Redemptoris missio, John-Paul II says:

The universality of salvation does not mean that it is given only to those who believe explicitly in Christ and have joined the Church.  If salvation is meant for all, it must be offered concretely to all... For them the salvation of Christ is available by means of a grace which, while relating them mysteriously to the Church, does not bring them into it formally, but enlightens them in a manner adapted to their state of spirit and their way of life (n. 10).

This way of looking at the question sees the influence of Christ on all, from the beginning of the world to its end, Awhen Christ will hand over the kingdom to God the Father... so that God may be all in all@ (1 Cor 15:24,28).[18]

Recognition of values in other religions

I have already referred to the Wisdom movement of the Old Testament, which freely borrowed the sayings and wisdom of neighbouring nations, although incorporating them in a triumphalist Yahwehism.  The process of borrowing and adopting is evident also in the Pentateuch, with its Mesopotamian background.

In the New Testament we notice the recognition of the secular value of the Roman empire (Mt 22:20; Rm 13:1-7; 1 Tim 2:1-2; Tit 3:1; 1 Pet 2:13-15), and Paul=s respect for the belief of the Athenians in one unknown God (Acts 17:16-34).

The early Fathers of the Church were totally opposed to the religion of the Greeks and Romans.  If they found in them some undeniable truths, they explained that they were borrowed from the revelation made to the Jews.  Nevertheless, the notion of Aseeds of the Word@ prepared the way for a wider viewpoint.[19]

Such a wider viewpoint had to wait for Vatican II to find expression, in Ad gentes (n.3 & 11), Lumen Gentium (n.16) and especially in Nostra aetate, which surveys the admirable aspects of Hinduism and Buddhism, with reference also to other religions.  It then states the following principle:

The Catholic Church does not reject anything that is true and holy in these religions.  It studies sincerely those ways of acting and living, those commandments and teachings which are in many ways in disagreement with what it holds, yet nevertheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. (n. 2)

Then, in a well-known paragraph, it reviews the bonds between Christianity and Islam, and then Judaism, applying the previous principle more extensively, since Islam and Judaism have more than a few Arays of the Truth@, or what Ad gentes calls Aseeds of the Word@ (n. 11).

Nevertheless, as Calude Gillot remarks, Athe declaration of Nostra aetate does not go so far as to say that non-Christian religions are >means of salvation=@.[20]  We may not expect the Church to come out with a more precise statement on this subject, but development of understanding will arise from further inter-religious dialogue and common experience.  For example, at the Assisi inter-religious gathering in 1986, the Pope made the following remarks:

There we discovered in an extraordinary way the unique value of prayer for peace, and that peace cannot be achieved without prayer, the prayer of all, with each one praying in his own way while looking for the truth... We can really hold that every authentic prayer is inspired by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in the heart of every man.[21]

This is a recognition of the value of the Apillars@ of non-Christian religions.

In Redemptoris missio the Pope remarks that Athe Spirit=s presence and activity affect not only individuals but also society and history, peoples, cultures and religions.  Indeed, the Spirit is at the origin of the noble ideals and undertakings which benefit humanity on its journey through history... Again, it is the Spirit who sows the >seeds of the Word= present in various customs and cultures, preparing them for full maturity in Christ@ (n. 28).  Theologians continue to discuss how the Spirit acts in non-Christian religions and in their rites.  The question is difficult and far from being resolved.[22]

It should be remarked here that some thinkers, such as R. Pannikar, J. Hick and P. Knitter, go too far, wanting to abandon a Christocentric model for a theocentric model, so as to recognize the great religions of the world as different human responses to the same divine reality.[23]  Others rightly reject this tendency as irreconcilable with the Christian Faith.[24]

Likewise, the syncretism represented by the New Age movement has no real respect for the faith and identity of any religious tradition, since it reduces dialogue between people to an imaginary synthesis of all possible beliefs.[25]


It would be useful, in the context of modern inter-religious dialogue, to have a study of the dialogical method of Jesus= preaching: how he discussed with the Samaratan woman (Jn 4), how he spoke to the crowds in parables, and how he adapted himself to the mentality of each person he spoke to.

The apologetes of the early Church continued the same method of preaching.  In the Middle Ages we can also admire the scholastic method of listening to all objections before defending a thesis; see, for example, the Questiones disputatae of St. Thomas.

This is not yet what we mean by dialogue, but there was a definite openness to speaking with non-believers.  This contrasts with the position of Pius XI who forbade all participation in ecumenical gatherings, because that would imply a compromise of Faith.  He concluded:

It is not permitted to promote union of Christians in any other way than by promoting their return to the true Church of Christ, from which they once unfortunately separated.[26]

The situation changed with Vatican II.  But even before the publication of the great Conciliar documents touching on dialogue, Paul VI created the Secretariate for non-Christians (in May 1964) and wrote his encyclical Ecclesiam suam (6-8-1964), which is considered the charter for dialogue.[27]  As examples of dialogue (colloquium), the Pope cites the action of God through the history of salvation, the preaching of Christ, and the teaching of his predecessors Pius XI and Pius XII, each of whom spoke in the language of their times.  Then he makes a long and beautiful description of dialogue which is unsurpassed to this day.  Its principal points are the following:  It is up to Christians and Catholics to take the initiative in dialogue.  They are to dialogue with all who accept dialogue, without exception.  They should invite them without forcing them.  They should await patiently for occasions to do so, and not put it off.  They should encourage what is positive instead of simply condemning errors.  The aim is not immediate conversion but to establish a common ground of ideas and peace.  Dialogue demands clarity of expression, trust and prudence, and it avoids any compromise of the truth.  Dialogue should be carried on with non-Christians, separated Christian brothers and within the Catholic Church.

This remarkable encyclical was echoed in the Conciliar documents that came out in the next two years.  Nostra aetate says:

The Church, therefore, urges her sons to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions.  Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture. (n. 2)

Addressing the laity, Apostolicam actuositatem says:

Catholics are to be keen on collaborating with all men of good will in the promotion of all that is true, just, holy, all that is worthy of love (cf. Phil 4:8).  They are to enter into dialogue with them, approaching them with understanding and courtesy. (n. 14)

The document on missions, Ad gentes, exhorts members of the Church to be fully involved in their culture and social institutions, and says:

Just as Christ penetrated the hearts of men and by a truly human dialogue led them to the divine light, so too his disciples, profoundly pervaded by the Spirit of Christ, should know and converse with those among whom they live, that through sincere and patient dialogue these men might learn of the riches which a generous God has distributed among the nations. (n. 11)

Gaudium et spes recommends dialogue with atheists (n. 11) and with separated Christian brothers (n. 92).

All these documents led the Secretariat for non-Christians (from 1989 AThe Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Relations@) to publish books on dialogue.  Between 1969 and 1971 the following titles appeared: Towards the meeting of religions, Meeting the African religions, Guidelines for a dialogue between Muslims and Christians, Towards the meeting with Buddhism, For a dialogue with Hinduism, et Religions: fundamental themes for a dialogistic understanding.  It also organized or participated in dialogue meetings, made all sorts of contacts with representatives of other religions, and promoted dialogue on the grass-roots level.  All this effort had many encouraging results, but also some failures.[28]

Paul VI spoke again in his Evangelii Nuntiandi (8 Dec. 1975) on the respect one ought to have for non-Christian religions, but he added:

Neither respect and esteem for these religions nor the complexity of the questions raised is an invitation to the Church to withhold from these non-Christians the proclamation of Jesus Christ.  On the contrary the Church holds that these multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ...  This is why the Church keeps her missionary spirit alive, and even wishes to intensify it in the moment of history in which we are living.  She feels responsible before entire peoples.  She has no rest so long as she has not done her best to proclaim the Good News of Jesus the Saviour. (n.53)

The inaugural encyclical of John-Paul II, Redemptor hominis (4-3-1979), re-affirms the necessity of dialogue (colloquium), first with separated Christians, and then with non-Christians.  These should be approached

through dialogue, contacts, prayer in common, investigation of the treasures of human spirituality, in which, as we know well, the members of these religions also are not lacking. (n. 6)

With all this encouragement, dialogue took off everywhere and at many different levels.  Soon people became conscious of a long-standing question that had not been sufficiently clarified; that is the relationship between dialogue and mission.  All the documents we have seen affirm that the work of evangelization must continue and even be intensified.  What is the place of dialogue, then, which seems to exclude the aim of conversion and to be a distinct work alongside mission?  That was a practical question that disturbed many who were involved in the apostolate of the Church.

Mission and dialogue

The Secretariat for non-Christians convoked a meeting to discuss this topic,[29]  and eventually came out with a document on the attitude of the Catholic Church to believers of other religions, better known by its sub-title Mission and dialogue.[30]

This directory distinguishes five kinds of mission: 1) that of simple presence and the witness of Christian life, 2) that of social development, 3) that of liturgical life, prayer and contemplation, 4) dialogue with believers of other religions, and 5) proclamation of the Gospel (n. 13).  These forms of mission depend on the circumstances and the role of every individual, as St. Francis instructed his brothers who were going to Muslim lands:

The friars who Athrough divine inspiration would desire to go among the Muslims... can establish spiritual contact with them (Muslims) in two ways: a way which does not raise arguments and disputes, but rather they should be subject to every human creature for the love of God and confess themselves to be Christians.  The other way is that when they see that it would be pleasing to the Lord, they should announce the word of God@. (n. 17)

Likewise, dialogue has many forms.  First of all there is a general spirit that must characterize dialogue:

Before all else, dialogue is a manner of acting, an attitude and a spirit which guides one=s conduct.  It implies concern, respect, and hospitality towards the other.  It leaves room for the other person=s identity, his modes of expression, and his values.  Dialogue is thus the norm and necessary manner of every form of Christian mission, as well as of every aspect of it, whether one speaks of simple presence and witness, service, or direct proclamation (CIC 787 no. 1).  Any sense of mission not permeated by such a dialogical spirit would go against the demands of true humanity and against the teachings of the Gospel. (n. 29)

In this general sense dialogue is equivalent to mission and is an aspect of all its forms.  But there are also various concrete forms of dialogue: 1) the dialogue of life, which is equivalent to the mission of presence and witness (n. 30), 2) the dialogue of work, which is equivalent to the mission of social involvement (n. 31-32), 3) the dialogue of specialists (n. 33), and 4) the dialogue of sharing religious experience.

Each activity of mission and dialogue has its own place and its own value in building up the kingdom of God.  The ultimate aim is that everyone should be filled with the knowledge and love of God, which begins here by Afaith, a gift of God accepted by the good will of man, and unity in the charity of Christ, who calls us all to share as sons in the life of the living God, the Father of all men@[31]  All this is fully realized in the Church.  Not every missionary task has as its proper and immediate goal the drawing of people to the Church, but a missionary can and should desire God to lead the non-Christians he comes in contact with to eventual membership in the Church.  Here is applicable the distinction between the Aaim of the task@ (finis operis) and the Aaim of the doer of the task@ (finis operantis), a precision not made in the Pope=s document.

The document, nevertheless, clarifies and balances the elements of Vatican II which up to then had not yet been synthesized.  The Vatican II document Ad gentes spoke of mission only in the sense of establishing the Church, while other Conciliar documents, especially Gaudium et spes, talked about dialogue.  Only with this directory were mission and dialogue were first integrated and put in a unified perspective.[32]

This 1984 document was updated by a new document, Dialogue and Proclamation: Reflection  and Orientation on Interreligious Dialogue and the Proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, issued jointly by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (the new name for the Secretariat for non-Christians) and the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples on 21 June 1991.

Before that, on 7 December 1990 John-Paul II issued the encyclical Redemptoris missio.  In this document he does not present dialogue as a Anorm and necessary manner of every form of Christian mission, as well as of every aspect of it,@ but says:

The Church sees no conflict between proclaiming Christ and engaging in inter-religious dialogue.  Instead, she feels the need to link the two in the context of her mission ad gentes.  These two elements must maintain both their intimate connection and their distinctiveness; therefore they should not be confused, manipulated or regarded as identical, as though they were interchangeable. (n. 55)

Evidently, he is taking dialogue in the sense of its various concrete forms, as he explains later (n. 57).

At this point, we should not pass over the work of the World Council of Churches, which has promoted dialogue for many years, organizing or participating in many meetings, publishing a directory on dialogue and maintaining a close relationship with the Vatican Secretariat for non-Christians.[33]

Muslim-Christian dialogue[34]

As mentioned above, the Secretariat for non-Christians in 1969 published in 1969 Guidelines for a dialogue between Muslims and Christians,[35] the work of Joseph Cuoq et Louis Gardet.  After further experience in such dialogue, Maurice Borrmans rewrote the book in 1981, giving it the title Orientations pour un dialogue entre chrétiens et musulmans;[36] The English edition, Guidelines for dialogue between Christians and Muslims appeared in 1990.[37]

The Secretariat for non-Christians and the World Council of Churches Sub-Commission for Dialogue with People of Living Faiths and Ideologies have constantly been organizing meetings with Muslims, and sometimes Muslims have organized such meetings themselves.[38]

John-Paul II encouraged this dialogue at Ankara on 30 November 1979 when he said:

My brothers, when I think of this spiritual heritage and the value it has for man and for society, its capacity of offering, particularly to the young, guidance for life, filling the gap left by materialism, and giving a reliable foundation to social and juridical organization, I wonder if it is not urgent, precisely today when Christians and Muslims have entered a new period of history, to recognize and develop the spiritual bonds that unite us, in order to preserve and promote together for the benefit of all men, Apeace, liberty, social justice and moral values@.[39]

Christian-Muslim dialogue, with such a push from the Church, is completely new.  It is not surprised that there were some stumbling and disappointments after the success and euphoria of the first meetings.  In the first stage there were quite a few international meetings.  Each meeting seemed more daring and more promising than the previous, until that organize by the Secretariat for non-Christians and the Socialist Arab Union of Libya in February 1976, where I was a participant.  There were exhilarating moments during the conference, such as when Fr. Lanfry asked pardon of the Muslims for all the outrages that Christians committed against Muslims over the centuries.  The heavy applause and the numbers of Muslims who went up to the stage to embrace him showed the pleasure of the Muslims at this sincere confession.  But there was no parallel confession on the part of the Muslims.  Besides, a final communication was released with the intrusion of some political clauses regarding Israel, and immediately afterwards all international transmissions were cut.  This made many feel disappointed at the conference.

The local Churches of the Middle East and of Nigeria, where relations with Muslims have not been easy, challenged or resisted the efforts of the Secretariat for non-Christians to organize meetings with Muslims on their territory.  Also European Christians showed their dissatisfaction with the lack of balance when Muslim immigrants in Europe are given liberty for full religious expression, while foreign Christians in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to have any public Christian worship.[40]

Muslims also were mistrustful of dialogue.  That was always the case in Nigeria, except for some private exchanges.  Otherwise Islamic fundamentalism was gaining ground and spread the impression that dialogue was a new missionary strategy to destabilize Islam; one Muslim called it Athe new trap of the old trappers@.[41]

All these problems led the Secretariat for non-Christians to give preference to meetings with Muslims on a local level, without publicity.  In fact such meetings were more fruitful.  Besides, the focus of such meetings moved from looking for common belief to establishing the legal legitimacy of religious pluralism and to an awareness of the economic and social background that is often the root of religious tensions, where religious differences are only a mask camouflaging these other differences.

Relations between Christians and Muslims differ greatly according to different situations.  Where Muslims are a strong majority, as in most Arab countries, native Christians feel put down and deprived of full citizenship and equality with the Muslims, even though they enjoy a certain amount of tolerance.  A worse situation prevails for foreign Christian workers in Saudi Arabia, but in other Arab countries such workers are allowed to have churches etc.  Muslim workers in Europe have complete religious liberty, just as those of any other religion, even though in daily life they often meet discrimination or harassment.  Native Muslim minorities, as in Ghana, have very little to complain about.

Where Christians and Muslims are more or less equal, as in Lebanon and Nigeria, there is the greatest difficulty.  Dialogue in such situations is minimal, if we are talking about the formal dialogue of specialists.

Nevertheless the Church continues to push for dialogue, applying to this exercise the words of Paul: AWoe to me if I do not preach the Gospel@ (1 Cor 9:16).[42]  But we are not examining here Christian-Muslim dialogue throughout the world.  We are more concerned with dialogue in Africa.

Muslim-Christian dialogue: a special challenge to Africans

Just as elsewhere in the world, Christian-Muslim relations differ very greatly from one country to another and even from one region to another within a single country.[43]

Countries with Christian or Muslim minorities

The situation of each country is unique and very complex and it is hard to make any general statements.  But let us take Ghana and Congo-Kinshasa as examples of countries where Muslims are a minority and the rulers of the countries are Christians.  Muslims play an important role in business and do not suffer from discrimination, practising their religion openly and even making propaganda for it.

Let us take Niger and Mali as examples of countries where Christians are a minority and the rulers are Muslims.  Christians have a significant role to play in these countries and can practice their faith freely, but political power is reserved to Muslims and Christians dare not make propaganda for their religion, since that would threaten their precarious position in society.

Countries where Christians and Muslims are nearly equal

The two most notable countries where Christians and Muslims are nearly equal are Sudan and Nigeria.  Even if Muslims are a majority in Sudan (70%?), they and the Christians are two distinct communities, geographically, racially and politically, and the Christians are demanding equal rights with the Muslims, if not autonomy.  In Nigeria, on the contrary, Muslim and Christians are about equally numerous.  Although they each have regions of heavy concentration, they are distributed all over and live together in the whole country.  Politically the Muslims are dominant, but their hold on power is far from secure against the pluralist opposition to an Islamic state.[44]

Since dialogue is not between systems, but people, we first must see who are the possible participants in dialogue.  In Nigeria, among Muslims there is every possible variety of attachment to Islam; some want to practice all the demands of Sharî`a, even with the structures of an Islamic state; for others it is only one aspect of their complex cultural heritage.

In any case, Islam is never a purely social identity, but must also answer religious needs, in this case for people of African tradition.  Islam gives them a picture of order in the universe, with themselves in a state of righteousness before God.  Their faith and certain practices give them the assurance that, in spite of their sins and failures, they belong to Athe best community raised up on earth@ (Qur=ân 3:110) and they have right to the special largess of God in this world and the next.  This explains the pride of Muslims, their sense of superiority and their immunity to any other message.

An African Muslim also sees in the practice of his religion a supernatural means to control his surroundings, and have protection and prosperity.

Islam also speaks in a language that is forceful to Africans who have an oral culture.  The Qur=ân is a collection of exhortations originally delivered orally, full of stories and illustrations.[45]

Also, the tight social bonds of Muslims supplies a need of Africans for belonging, especially for those who leave their villages for purposes of business or work.  The religious and social solidarity of Islam makes it a party, Athe party of God@ in the language of the Qur=ân.  Islam provides not only brotherhood, but also opportunities for social and economic advancement.  An Islamic state, or at least the establishment of a Sharî`a system that covers most aspects of life, can be popular not because people wish to be regulated by all the provisions of Sharî`a, but because it is the symbol of a Muslim government.  If the government is Muslim then Muslims expect to benefit from the national cake.  This is a very important consideration where there is a tradition of viewing power as a means to take the spoil and distribute it to one=s own tribe or supporters, and merit counts little.  Islam in this case becomes a kind of super-tribe.

Islamic solidarity has every sort of variation.  For some Islam is only one club or society among others that they belong to.  For others Islam and Arabic culture is a fascination that governs their whole life.  There is also a difference between those who have had a Western education (who also may be fervent Muslims) and those who have had a purely Arabic and Islamic education.  There are those who know little about their religion (often the case among rich business men or professional people) and those who know it well.  There are those who keep to a very traditional Islam, and those who ask questions and propose reforms.  There are members of ûfî societies who seek the divine presence, power and help through holy men (walî/ awliyâ=) and sacred objects or practices, whereas on the other hand people of the anbalite tradition regard all this as superstition; they want to do away with any sort of spiritual intermediacy and treat the Qur=ân as a source of knowledge, not as a vehicle of divine blessing to be placed in amulets.[46]  A sociological or anthropological study is necessary to determine just how Islam concretely acts as a factor of social solidarity.

In relations with others, some Muslims look down on non-Muslims as impure and have as little contact with them as possible, while others mix with non-Muslims without any fear or hesitation.  When religions becomes a motive of distancing oneself from another, other non-religious differences come into prominence as well.  These are often pushed to an extreme by politicians who appeal to Islam to establish their credentials as candidates to office.

African Christians are also a complex lot:  There are activists who always defend Christian interests; there are other fervent members who are not so active or outspoken, and there are those who bear the name AChristian@ but are ready to make any compromise to gain their political objectives.  There are also differences between traditional Catholic and Protestant Churches, aggressive Pentecostal evangelists, and aladura Churches that stress African tradition.  There are those who are well instructed in religion and those who are ignorant of it, at no matter what social level.  Christians are taught to be impartial in the exercise of any social responsibility, and not to use their office to promote the interests of their own Church members at the expense others.  Taking this attitude to an extreme, many Christian political and business leaders take scant interest in anything that affects the Church and allow it to suffer injustice, while they are busy promoting the interests of their tribe of clan.

Forms of dialogue

In such a context, dialogue must take different forms.  Besides dialogue in the sense of a general attitude (n.29 in Mission and dialogue), the four special forms of dialogue (n. 30-35) will apply in a unique way in the African context.  Besides these forms, the African situation suggests other forms of dialogue that are not mentioned in Mission and dialogue, such as the first three that follow:

The language of resistance

Speaking to the Diplomatic Corps on 13-1-1990, John-Paul II said:

I cannot pass over in silence the worrying situation for Christians in certain countries with a Muslim majority.  I am constantly hearing about their spiritual distress:  They often are deprived of places of worship; they are the object of suspicion, forbidden to organize religious education according to their Faith or any charitable activities; they have the sad feeling of being second-class citizens.  I am convinced that the great traditions of Islam, such as welcoming strangers, faithfulness to friendship, patience under adversity, and the importance given to faith in God, are so many principles that should make Muslims go beyond unacceptable sectarian attitudes.  I earnestly home that, if Muslim believers rightly find in countries of Christian tradition the essential facilities to satisfy the demands of their religion, that Christians can likewise enjoy a comparable treatment in all countries of Islamic tradition.  Religious liberty cannot be limited to simple tolerance.  It is a civil and social reality, stemming from precise rights that permit believers and their communities to bear witness to their Faith in God without fear and to live according to all its demands.[47]

In such situations in Africa there must be some tension between Muslims and Christians.  In that case divisions among Christians are often suspended and they make common cause against the common threat.  That is a natural reaction, but what does Christian faith demand?  Self-defence by non-violent means is one of the duties and rights which all movements of justice and peace in our time support.[48]  In situations where Muslims or Christians refuse to practice justice with one another, the language of resistance or challenge is one necessary form of dialogue.  Sometimes defending one=s rights can result in unpleasant confrontation.  This is the lowest form of dialogue, but it is sometimes necessary.

The language of cooperation

There are many interests Muslims and Christians have in common, in the area of economics, development, and social and moral progress.  These concern not only government and religious leaders, but also individuals and private associations.  In pluralist African societies there is often no division along confessional lines, and Muslims and Christians join in common projects.  But in some places religious difference creates a social distinction that prevents cooperation.  Here the Church has the task of taking the initiative in promoting cooperation with Muslims.

The language of affirmation

Cooperating in some common project is a good opportunity to build up trust.  Trust can also be promoted by gestures of recognition, such as greetings or visits on the occasion of religious feasts.  These are chances to emphasize what unites Muslims and Christians, but in doing so one ought to avoid making facile statements about the foundations of Islam, such as the origin of the Qur=ân or the authority of Muammad, complicated questions where any public statements risk being misunderstood and could cause confusion.  But silence is not the answer.  Words encouraging the good in the other can contribute to mutual trust and make dialogue easier.

Public gatherings when a bishop and an imam each says a prayer or a few words to the people are also occasions for encouraging mutual respect.

The language of example and sharing experiences

The example of a good life of prayer and love of neighbour is the strongest form of dialogue.  Such example is valuable all by itself, but where Christians and Muslims live and share with one another it is normal for them to talk about what they find inspiring in their religion or in the religion or lives of others.

To take one example, a Muslim lecturer one attended the midday prayer at the Dominican Community in Ibadan.  He heard the Psalms sung and saw how the brothers bowed down at the AGlory be@; afterwards he remarked that this prayer is two-thirds Muslim.  That was a chance to talk about the practical importance of prayer in our lives.

A Nigerian Catholic nurse who worked for a number of years in Saudi Arabia told me that the Saudis gradually began asking themselves questions about the life style of these foreign Christians and soon were discussing with them what they believed in to make them live this way.  She saw a great change in the attitude of the Saudis during that time.

The language of proclamation

Years ago many nominal Muslims became Christians through Christian schools.  Nowadays we see many becoming Christians through the preaching of evangelical Protestants who pass up no opportunity to preach the Gospel to Muslims.  This success has provoked a reaction on the part of Muslims.  They make counter-propaganda in the public media and organize their youth in societies for the purpose of Islamic teaching and solidarity.  Sometimes they even react violently.  While feeling free to quote the Bible and twist its meaning into something that agrees with Islam, they do not tolerate Christians using the Qur=ân to support Christian positions.

Such a delicate situation demands prudence.  An extreme solution, followed by the Church in some countries which are almost entirely Muslim, is to refuse to accept the conversion of Muslims, or only accept them if they agree to practice their Christian faith in secret.  In either case, the rights of such individuals are violated.  In places where it is possible to preach the Christian Faith, any distortion of Islam must be scrupulously avoided, if reference must be made at all to Islam.  The Qur=ân, for all its respect for Jesus, does not provide reason for a Muslim to become a Christian, unless he reads it in an altogether non-traditional way.  We must admit that Christian Faith goes far beyond what the Qur=ân teaches.  Rather than lean on the Qur=ân, we should insist on the historical facts of the early Church and the formation of the New Testament, if we want to answer Muslim objections.  One of the important tasks of the Church is to make an objective presentation of what is common to Islam and Christianity and what is different, and to make sure that the statements of some Christian extremists are not taken as the position of the Church or the majority of Christians.

The language of dialogue

All the languages mentioned above are forms of dialogue in the wide sense.  They are the most commonly practised types of dialogue in those parts of Africa where pluralism prevails.  Dialogue in the strict sense of a discussion between Christian and Muslim specialists about their faith is a task that can result in much good; it is much encouraged and desired by the Church, but it is quite rare in fact, and full of pitfalls.

One difficulty is to find a sharp sense of the problems touched on in such discussions.  Newspaper articles and public statements by leaders are often gross simplifications and do little to help mutual understanding.  Some Muslims are fond of attacking Aorientalists@ without seriously examining what they have to say.[49]

Another problem is to have enough openness of spirit and boldness to take initiatives and try new practical ways of reaching greater understanding.[50]


As for a definition, inter-religious dialogue B presupposing religious liberty and recognition of the values contained in other religions B is a mutual effort of the members of different religions to listen to one another, to remove false impressions and to appreciate in the other goodness of life, faith in God, religious experience and thirst for justice, which the Spirit has produced in the other; and that for mutual enrichment as they make progress together in the knowledge and love of God and of neighbour.

For Catholics, this march together is ordered to unity of faith in the communion of the Church.  But to proclaim the Gospel in such a way that it will be accepted, often a long dialogue must precede, which takes on different forms.  Especially with Muslims, we must strive for justice and liberty for all, fighting all tribal or religious discrimination, while at the same time living blamelessly (1 Th 5:23), always ready to share what motivates and inspires us (1 Pt 3:15).


[1]This is a reworking of my AFoi chrétienne en dialogue avec l=Islam@ in Quelle Eglise pour l=Afrique du troisième millenaire?  Actes du XVIIIe Semaine Théologique de Kinshasa. Kinshasa. Les Facultés Catholiques, 1991, 165-184

[2]See Dignitatis humanae.

[3] Cf. L. Bouyer, AToleration and the teaching of the early Fathers@ in Tolerance and the Catholic, a symposium (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1955), p. 53; J. Leclercq, La liberté d=opinion et les catholiques (Paris: Cerf, 1963); and Cristianesimo nella storia 11:3 (Ottobre 1990), the whole of which is on this topic.

[4] See J. Daniélou, Les saints païens de l=Ancien Testament (Paris, 1943; P. Rossano, ALordship of Christ and religious pluralism@, Bulletin of the Secretariat for non-Christians, 43 (1980), 17-30, esp. p.25.

[5] See H. Teissier, APossibilités et éléments d=un directoire pour le dialogue@, B.S.N.C., 41-2 (1979), 139-161, especially 150; he is quoting P. Jacquemond etc., Le temps de la patience, étude sur le témoignage (Paris: Cerf, 1976).

[6] Cf. H. Teissier, op. cit.

[7] See the short article of A. Luneau, ATo help dialogue: The Fathers and the non-Christian religions@, B.S.N.C., 7 (1968), 5-19.

[8] Epistle 102; cf. The Fathers of the Church (Westminster), vol. 18, pp. 155-6.

[9]Ibid., I-II, 106:1, ad 3, 107:1, ad 2.

[10] Lumen Gentium, n.16.

[11] Free and faithful in Christ (N.Y.: Seabury, 1978), vol.1 ch.5.

[12] Cf. J. Jadot, AThe growth in Roman Catholic committment to inter-religious dialogue since Vatican II@, B.S.N.C., 54 (1983), 205-220, esp. 206-9.

[13] Quanto conficimur moerore (1863), in H. Denziger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. K. Rahner (Frieburg, 1953), n.1677.

[14] A.A.S. 58 (1966), 1042-3.  Other important texts are Lumen Gentium, n.16, Ad Gentes, n.11 and Nostra aetate.

[15] Christianity and the non-Christian religions@, a talk on 28 April 1961, ch. 6 in Theological investigations, vol.5 (Baltimore: Helicon, 1966), p.116.  See also R. De Haes, ALa question de la vraie religion@, Philosophie africaine face aux libérations religieuses, Actes de la XIe semaine philosophique de Kinshasa 1988 (Kinshasa: Facultés catholiques, 1990), pp.189-198.

[16] A.A.S., 72 (1979), 283-5.

[17] B.S.N.C., 64 (1987), 62-70, esp. 64-5.

[18] Cf. M. Fitzgerald, AMission and dialogue: reflections in the light of Assisi 1986", B.S.N.C., 68 (1988), 113-120, esp. 114.

[19] Cf. A. Luneau, op. cit. 

[20]ALe dialogue des religions: défi pour un monde divisé@, Bulletin of the Secretariat for non-Christians, 61 (1986), 80-97, p.91.

[21]ADiscours aux Cardinaux et à la Curie@, Bulletin of the Secretariat for non-Christians, 64 (1987), 62-70.

[22] Cf. first Y. Congar, Essaies oecoméniques (Paris: Le Centurion, 1984), ch. 19, ALes religions non-bibliques sont-elles des médiatrices de salut?@, pp. 271-296, et J. Gelot, AVers une théologie des non-chrétiens@, Islamochristiana, n.5 (1976), p.1 ss.  See also H. Coward; Pluralism, a challenge to world religions (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1985); H. Küng, Le Christianisme et les religions du monde (Paris: Ed. du Seuil, 1987), Une théologie pour le troisième millénaire (Paris: Ed. du Seuil, 1987), section C, p. 289 ss.); A. Gesche, ALe Christianisme et les autres religions, Revue Théologique de Louvain, 19:3 (1985), p. 315-341; P. Knitter, No other name? a critical survey of Christian attitudes toward the world religions (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1985); J. Hick & P. Knitter, The myth of Christian uniqueness; toward a pluralistic theology of religions (Maryknoll, Orbis, 1987); S. Maggiolini, ALe catholicisme et les religions non-chrétiennes@, Nouvelle Revue Théologique, 109:4 (Juillet-Oct. 1987), pp. 509-520; André Gounelles, AThéologies des religions non-chrétiennes@, Autres Temps, 27 (nov. 1990), pp. 6-17; Jean-Claude Basset, AEnjeux du dialogue interreligieux, sept propositions en guise de test@, Autres Temps, 27, pp. 30-37.

[23] R. Panikkar, Le dialogue intrareligieux (Aubier, 1985); J. Hick & P. Knitter (eds.), The myth of Christian uniqueness. Toward a pluralistic theology of religions (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1987); P. Knitter, No other name? A critical survey of Christian attitudes toward the world religions (Maryknoll: Orbis, l985).

[24] For example, M. Fedou, ALa théologie de religions à l=heure du pluralisme@, Etudes, Juin 1989, pp. 821-830; R. De Haes, ADe la théologie des religions non-chrétiennes au dialogue interreligieux@, Revue africaine de théologie, nos 27-28 (Inculturation et liberation en Afrique aujourd=hui, Mélanges en l=honneur du Professeur Abbé Mulago Gwa Cikala, 1990), pp. 47-64.

[25] Cf. Denis Müller, AL=éthique du dialogue à l=épreuve du défi religieux contemporain@, Autres Temps, 27 (nov. 1990), pp. 18-29, et M. Wild, AThe new age, challenge to the Churches@, Theology Digest, 37:2 (1990), pp. 137-139.

[26] Mortalium animos, 6-1-1928. A.A.S., 20 (1928), 5-16, p.14.

[27] Cf. J. Jadot, AThe growth...@, p.215.

[28] For the history of the activities of the Secretariat for non-Christians see P. Rossano, AThe Secretariat for non-Christians from the beginnings to the present day: history, ideas, problems@, B.S.N.C., 41-42 (1979), 88-109; F.A. Arinze, AProspects of evangelization with reference to the areas of the non-Christian religions@, B.S.N.C., 57 (1984), 111-140.

[29] See H. Teissier, APossibilités et éléments d=un directoire pour le dialogue@, B.S.N.C., 41-42 (1979), 130-138; P. D=Souza, AContents of the Directory on dialogue with men of other religions@, B.S.N.C. (41-42), 139-161.

[30] See B.S.N.C., n.56 (1984) for the text in several languages, and n. 59 (1985) for several articles commenting on this directory.

[31] Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, n. 21.

[32] Cf. H. Teissier, ALe dialogue fait partie de la mission@, B.S.N.C., 59 (1985), 141-149; La mission de l=Eglise (Paris: Desclée, 1985).

[33] Cf. S.J. Samartha, AGuidelines on dialogue@, B.S.N.C., 41-42 (1979), 130-138.

[34] For a general survey of relations between Muslims and Christians, see (anon.), AThe history of the Christian-Muslim relationship@, Encounter, n.122-123 (Feb-Mar. 1986); (anon.), AThe Muslim-Christian dialogue of the last ten years, Pro Mundi Vita Bulletin, 74 (Sept.-Oct. 1978); J.L. Esposito, AIslamic resurgence@, Pro Mundi Vita Bulletin, 109 (1987), 2-21; B.L. Haines, AThe response of the third world Christians@, ibid., 22-35.

[35] Rome: Ed. Ancora.

[36] Paris: Cerf.

[37] Paulist Press.

[38] See the list in M. Borrmans, Orientations pour un dialogue entre chrétiens et musulmans, p.173ff, and the pages ADialogue in the World@ in each number of the Bulletin du Sécrétariat pour les non-Chrétiens; there are similar reports in Islamochristiana.

[39]Text in L=Osservatore Romano, 3 Dec. 1979, p. 19-20.

[40] See M. Sabanegh, AL=Eglise catholique au sein du monde arabo-musulmane@, B.S.N.C., 57 (1984), 289-309.

[41]Cf. J. Lopez-Gay, ACurrent criticisms of the theology and practice of >dialogue=@, B.S.N.C., 30 (1975), p.338.

[42]See M. Zago, ALe magistère sur le dialogue Islamo-Chrétien@, B.S.N.C., 62 (1986), 171-181; T. Michel, APope John Paul II=s teaching about Islam in his addresses to Muslims@, B.S.N.C., 62 (1986), 182-191; M. Fitzgerald, AMission and dialogue: reflections in the light of Assisi 1986", B.S.N.C., 68 (1988), 113-120; T. Michel, AChristian and Muslim minorities: possibilities for dialogue@, B.S.N.C., 70 (1989), 47-58.

[43]For the countries of francophone West Africa see the report of the Commission for Relations between Christians and Muslims of S.E.R.A.O., Sokode, 15-17 Nov. 1989 and Yopoogon, 16-22 Sept. 1990.  For Nigeria, see J. Kenny, AChristian-Muslim relations in Nigeria@, Islamochristiana, 5 (1979), 171-192; AL=Eglise et l@Islam en Afrique de l=Ouest au XXième siècle (avec une référance particulière au Nigéria)@ in G. Ruggieri (ed.), Eglise et Histoire de l=Eglise en Afrique (Paris: Beauchesne, 1988), pp.189-215.  See also M. Kayatakibga, AChrétiens et musulmans en Afrique sub-saharienne@, B.S.N.C., 57 (1984), 328-338; et Luc Moreau, Africains musulmans (Paris: Présence Africaine, 1982); G. Jeusset, ASaint François, l=Islam, l=Afrique et nous@, B.S.N.C., 66 (1982), 226-276; J. Lacunza, AIslam in East Africa: a historical note@, B.S.N.C., 49-50 (1982), 51-62; M. Diarra, AL=Islam en Afrique Occidentale@, ibid., 63-73; J. Gwenolé, ARelations entre chrétiens et musulmans: une expérience, un témoinage@, ibid., 74-90, AA simple witness to the Muslims of Black Africa@, ibid., 91-103; J. Stamer, ARapport d=activités de la Commission Episcopale pour les relations entre chrétiens et musulmans 1979-1980-1981 (CERAO)@, ibid., 104-120.

[44]For a detailed discussion on the situation of Nigeria, see J. Kenny, AL=Eglise et l@islam en Afrique de l=Ouest au XXième siècle (avec une référence particulière au Nigéria)@; also ASharî`a and Christianity in Nigeria: Islam and a >secular= state,@ Journal of Religion in Africa, 26:4 (1996), 338-364.

[45]Cf. L. Moreau, op. cit., p. 214ff.

[46]Cf. Ibid., p.218ff.

[47]L=Osservatore Romano, 14-1-1990, p. 5, cité en dans les Lineamenta.

[48]See Benjamin J. Russell, The traditional Christian teaching on the morality of war, Lectorate dissertation, Aquinas Institute (St. Louis), 1961; S. Windass, Le christianisme et la violence (Cerf, 1966); Daniel B. Stevick, Civil disobedience and the Christian (N.Y., 1969); Albert Nolan, Jesus before Christianity (N.Y.: Orbis, 1978), 64, 110-11.

[49]For example, they are not aware of the contents of books such as W.M. Watt, Islam and Christianity today (London: R.&K. Paul, 1983), with it preface by Shaikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani.

[50]It would be interesting to compare the above types of language with the four fundamental types of dialogue propose by Jean-Claude Basset (op. cit., pp. 34-35).  They Aare distinguished by their modes and their purposes: 1) dialogue of lay people for the purpose of cooperation, 2) dialogue of priests for the purpose of community solidarity, 3) dialogue of theologians for mutual understanding, 4) dialogue of prayerful people for spiritual communion.@

He explains these types in the following table:

Laity                 Priests                 TheologiansPraying people

Base            humanity                      practice             doctrine                        experience

Horizon                  society              community        thought             spirituality

Style               unanimous        particular                      discursive         intuitive

Aim             cooperation       coexistence       understanding    communion

In this typology which, according to Basset, is not exhaustive, the language of cooperation corresponds with the dialogue of laity, the language of affirmation to the dialogue of priests, the language of dialogue to the dialogue of theologians, and the language of example and shared experience to the dialogue of prayerful people.