Sponsored by North American Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries of men and women.
A major initiative of the MID board is drawing nearer and nearer to completion. The book Benedicts Dharma: Buddhists Reflect on the Rule of Saint Benedict will be published by Riverhead Press in late summer, and this will be followed by a conference that will continue the dialogue between Buddhist and Christian practitioners. William Skudlarek, OSB, chair of the MID board, will open the conference at the Benedict Inn Conference Center in Beech Grove, Indiana, on the evening of September 21. Three of the Buddhists who contributed to the bookVen. Yifa, Judith Simmer-Brown, and Norman Fischerwill make presentations during the three-day program, as will a number of Christian respondents, including the Benedictine monastics David Steindl-Rast, Mary Collins, James Wiseman, Columba Stewart, and Mary Margaret Funk. The conference itself will be chaired by Patrick Henry, the books general editor. A full-page announcement about the book may be found elsewhere in this issue of our Bulletin.
The board has also been active in drawing up plans for a follow-up to the Gethsemani Encounter of 1996. This second encounter will be held at that same Trappist abbey in Kentucky in April of 2002. Unlike the conference on Benedicts Dharma, which is open to the public, attendance at Gethsemani Encounter II will be by invitation only, but we plan to make the proceedings available later in the form of a book as well as audiotapes.
Several members of the MID advisory board have been very active in interreligious dialogue in recent months. Fr. Leo Lefebures most recent book, Revelation, the Religions, and Violence, received the Pax Christi U.S.A. 2001 Award. Fr. Lefebure is a member of the Midwest Regional Muslim-Catholic Dialogue and is one of the writers of a joint document on Catholic and Muslim perspectives on revelation. At the groups meeting in Indianapolis last November, he presented a response to a Muslim scholars lecture on Themes in the Quran.
On May 8 of this year he spoke to the Eastern Regional Conference of Canonists in Calicoon, New York, on the Vatican document Dominus Iesus and will be the keynote speaker at an interreligious conference on Religion and Violence, to be held at the Wisdom House Retreat Center in Connecticut in late October. Fr. Lefebure was recently awarded tenure in the Department of Theology at Fordham University. For all of these accomplishments we offer him our hearty congratulations! Another active advisor is Br. Edward Dailey, C.S.C., who organized and chaired a weekly series of presentations and discussions on various world religions for a group of adults at Notre Dame, Indiana, last November. The speaker on Islam was the chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, the presentations on African traditional religions were given by two members of the Congregation of the Holy Cross (one of the brothers being himself a Ghanaian), a rabbi from one of the Jewish temples in South Bend spoke on Judaism, and a Holy Cross priest with long experience in Buddhism spoke about that tradition. Br. Edward himself gave an opening presentation on the nature of interreligious dialogue. The entire series was so well received that plans are being made for a follow-up conference in the autumn of this year. Br. Edward also participated in an educational program at the Temple Beth-El in South Bend last April, one that is held annually so that ministers of different faiths may learn more about Judaism. In addition to hearing presentations by Sr. Mary Boys of New Yorks Union Theological Seminary and taking part in the ensuing discussions, the attendees participated in the Friday and Saturday Shabbat services at the temple.
Archbishop Marcello Zago, one of the Churchs leading experts on Buddhism and interreligious dialogue, died on March 21, 2001 after a long illness. He was 68.
Marcello Zago was ordained a priest in the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) in 1959, and went immediately to Laos and Cambodia, where he lived until 1974. He founded a Center for Study and Dialogue with Buddhists in Laos. In 1983, Zago was appointed by Pope John Paul II to be secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. An expert on Buddhism and dialogue, Zago also taught at the Pontifical Urban and Lateran Universities, and wrote extensively on interfaith dialogue. He was one of the persons most responsible for the 1986 Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi.
In 1986, Zago left the PCID when he was elected Superior General of the OMI, and he held this post until 1998. In 1998, he was appointed by Pope John Paul II to be secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Upon Zagos death, Pope John Paul II expressed his admiration for Zagos profund spirituality and his pastoral energy as priest and bishop.
It was my good fortune to meet Marcello Zago when in Rome on sabbatical in 1986. There was a dialogue at the Maitreya Foundation between Zago and the Ven. Saddhatissa from the London Buddhist Vihara. I remember that while watching Zago presenting his talk, I noticed that his clothes were threadbare in places, with hand-sewn thread holding his cuff together on one pant leg. His talk was deeply spiritual, and yet also very clear as to the Churchs views on the topics being discussed. He spoke with both strength and gentleness; and his humility was very much appreciated by his Buddhist dialogue partners. Afterwards, when we actually met, he made sure that I also established a good relationship with the Ven. Saddhatissa. In fact, Ven. Saddhatissa and I went on to become good friends. This kind of attention to building Buddhist-Christian rapport on a very personal level, I would find, was characteristic of how Zago lived out his calling to dialogue.
I was fortunate enough to meet three more times with Marcello Zago during my stay in Rome. By word and example, he helped me to appreciate the essential place of interfaith dialogue in the future of the Church as communion, reaching out and connecting to persons of other faiths. It was clear to me that this reaching out to others, and its nourishment of unity, was, for Zago, the very action of Jesus Christ. It was also clear that Zago had gained a great deal of personal enrichment from, and respect for, Buddhism. This commitment to dialogue, and the belief in its potential for both personal mutual enrichment as well as a deeper unity between the Church and other religions, were, I believe, what Zago brought back to Rome from his many years in Laos and Cambodia.
Lasting two weeks, the course will be composed of four sets of lectures and three seminars, with the lectures being given by specialists in their field: Professor Sidney Griffith, MT, of the Catholic University of America will speak on Islam, Professor Thomas Matus, OSB Cam., of SantAnselmo will treat Hinduism, Fr. Pierre de Bethune, OSB, secretary-general of the worldwide Dialogue Interreligieux Monastique will lecture on Buddhism, and Fr. Jacques Dupuis, SJ, professor emeritus at the Pontifical Gregorian University, will discuss the theology of interreligious dialogue. Each of these speakers will give ten hours of lectures, focusing on the reading of specific texts. Further information about the course may be found on the Internet at www.santanselmo.org.
MID © Copyright 1995-2004 by MID / www.monasticdialog.com