This Dec. 8, it will have been 50 years since the close of the Second Vatican Council, the most important event in the Catholic Church in the 20th century, and very likely for many centuries into the past and future. Nearly all the Catholic bishops of the world, including our own Bishop William A. O'Connor, attended the four sessions of the Council at St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, from 1962 to 1965.
If Pope Francis's encyclical letter Laudato Si' (Praised Be) had been the only compelling news story of recent days, I would have had plenty to write about.
With tremendous grief, however, we must also turn to the June 17 murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
I've just returned from the National Workshop on Christian Unity, an event I attend every year. The most recent Workshop, held this time in Charlotte, N.C., had a distinctly interreligious emphasis. The interreligious input is always welcome. Most people who are active in ecumenism — that is, work for unity among Christians — also find themselves involved in enhancing relations among people of the various religions of the world.
Resurrection: Every time I come to the Easter celebration, it seems as if this great gift is too great to be appreciated.
All of us experience life as a wearying thing. We work; we expend energy; we feel tired at the end of each day. Our bodies show signs of age, and we are reminded that we are subject to death.
It's time to note one recent event and two upcoming.
First of all, on Sunday, Feb. 8, St. Jude Parish, Rochester, hosted a dialogue session for young Catholics and Muslims, and I was pleased to be an adult guest there. It was a very enjoyable initial session and the young people are looking forward to further opportunities to consider how Islam and Christianity converge and differ. The food was great, too. Thanks to the Muslim adult leaders, and to Dan Frachey and Father Dean Probst of St. Jude.
Pope Francis continues to be an effective communicator to the world. Over this past month, as we have been reflecting upon the terrorist attacks in Paris, we have certainly been moved to re-assert human rights to freedom of expression. Pope Francis, however, brings up a very important point which must be interpreted in light of the goal which must be before all of us: that we must learn how to communicate effectively, and with love, across religious boundaries.
All of us should be aware of the existence of an event called the "Parliament of the World's Religions." After all, it originated in Illinois.
The first "World's Parliament of Religions" took place Sept. 11-27, 1893, in Chicago, during the great world's fair called the World's Columbian Exposition. According to Wikipedia, "Today it is recognized as the occasion of the birth of formal interreligious dialogue worldwide."
With its two volumes and 4,400 pages, the just-published Norton Anthology of World Religions may seem quite imposing. I am only 100 pages into it, and I am happy to report that it is in fact a friendly guide to the religious heritage of a great proportion of the peoples of the earth.
Nov. 21, 1964, was a momentous day at the Second Vatican Council, which had begun its work in 1962. Three of its eventual 16 documents were issued that day by Blessed Paul VI in union with all the Catholic bishops of the world. Let us look, from a perspective of 50 years, at two of them: the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, and the Decree on Ecumenism.
It comes up every three years, and every six years it coincides with a presidential or state election. I'm referring to this Sunday's Gospel passage, Matthew 22: 15-21, in which Jesus taught us to "repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God," and thereby established the principle of separation of church and state.