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Thomas Ryan, CSP :
53 article(s)

Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP, directs the Paulist North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in Washington, D.C.
April 3rd, 2013

The Passover Seder is a celebration which can last for several hours, during which the Jewish people commemorate and re-live, as a family of faith, their liberation from slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh.
The most important moment of the Seder is the account of God’s liberation of his people from Egypt “with a strong hand and outstretched arm” and it is commonly called Haggadah, a term that means “telling”.  Over time,  the text of the Passover ritual came to be known as the Haggadah. According to scholars, the Haggadah… as it is known today as a liturgical text, was first drawn up around the seventh century of the common era, and was first printed in Spain in 1482.
The New Testament

January 17th, 2013

Q: What is the best way to decide what faith to be if you believe in different parts of all faiths?
A. Where do you find the most truth? I think that’s the question, because as you rightly observe, there is truth in all faiths. And we’re impelled by nature and bound by moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. Once we come to know it, we’re bound to adhere to it and direct our lives in accordance with its demands. We’re obliged to honor and bear witness to it
What’s the best way to decide where most truth is to be found? Study, dialogue, prayer, and discernment. The desire for God is written in the human heart, because we have been created by God for God, and God never ceases to draw us to God’s…

January 10th, 2013

Q. There are so many names for God, Allah, Yazad, Harvesp-Tavaan ect. why is my God or your God better than someone else’s God? Who is the true God?…
A. It’s not surprising that different cultures of the world in different historic contexts come up with different names for God. Words — names for God — are essentially just pointers to the Divine. Words and their meaning are shaped by culture and historic context. What is significant, though, is that Jews, Christians, Musims, Zoroastrians, all agree that there is only one God. So it is not that my God or your God is better than someone else’s God. It is rather that each religion has the conviction that it has received a special, fuller revelation from

January 2nd, 2013

If by “confession” you mean acknowledgement of wrongdoing and seeking of forgiveness, other religions do have confession. In Judaism, for example, it’s called Teshuva or “repentance”, apology, return, going back to who you are meant to be. Teshuva is the gesture of returning to God, of letting go of your arrogance, your waywardness, your sinfulness and going back to your ultimate Source. It represents the possibility that even the most degenerate sinner can be reunited with God. Teshuvah is the dominant theme during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year, a day of awakening) and Yom Kippur (the day of Atonement and asking forgiveness) in the early Fall.
I was…

December 27th, 2012

Interfaith dialogue does not involve being untrue to one’s own convictions of faith. On the contrary, it invites the partners to join together in a common seeking of the truth. In that process, they will share their own understanding in an honest and respectful way. For Catholics, the “uniqueness” and “universality” of Christ are understood to mean that by and in Jesus, God effected a self-manifestation in a manner that is decisive for all and can neither be surpassed or repeated.
The place Jesus Christ occupies in Christianity is central. No other religion attributes such a unique place to its founder. For Islam, Muhammad is the depository of the divine message, the prophet through whom God speaks.…

October 19th, 2012

The goals of the work for Christian unity (ecumenism) and interfaith dialogue are different. The goal of interfaith dialogue is not unity in faith and worship as is the goal with other Christians, but mutual understanding and respect, and mutual enrichment enabling us all to respond more fully to God’s call. It includes collaboration wherever possible in response to the societal problems we commonly face. For this reason, the purpose of theological dialogue will not be to prove that one side is right and the other is wrong, but rather to explore respective positions in order to understand them better. When this is done, many prejudices, built on half-truths, will fall by the wayside.…

October 4th, 2012

The Missouri Synod’s website identifies three main areas of difference between the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA):
1.The doctrine and authority of Scripture — The LCMS believes that the Bible is without error in all that it says. The ELCA avoids making such statements, holding that Scripture is not necessarily always accurate on such matters as history and science. Differences between the LCMS and the ELCA on the authority of Scripture also help to explain why the LCMS does not ordain women (based on 1 Corinthians 14:33-36, 1 Timothy 2:11-14), sees homosexual behavior as contrary to God’s will (Romans 1:18-28, 1 Corinthians 6:9), and…

September 27th, 2012

There are some significant differences in the membership of the Lutheran Church. Three of the different denominations that consider themselves Lutheran include:
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS)  
Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod (LCMS)
and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
According to the Handbook of Denominations in the United States (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010), here are some facts and figures:
 
The ELCA has 4.7 million members in 10,400 congregations. “The ELCA promotes the Lutheran theological and liturgical tradition while allowing greater freedom for laity and clergy to address contemporary social and intellectual concerns than most other…

September 20th, 2012

Question:
As a baptized Roman Catholic who is now a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, can I still receive communion in the Catholic Church without disrespecting the Church’s policy?
The sensitivity you express in the phrase “without disrespecting the (Catholic) Church’s policy” is admirable. As you have witnessed, the various denominations do have different policies. Why? Because they attach different significance/meanings to receiving Holy Communion.
For example, for Catholics as well as for Eastern Orthodox, sharing in the one bread and cup is an expression of unity in faith, worship, mission, and governance. For most Protestants, sharing the Eucharist with…

September 13th, 2012

Question: I saw some reference to “A Common Word” letter from Muslims addressed to Christians. What’s the “common word” refering to?
In October 2007 a group of 138 leading Muslim scholars from many parts of the world presented an “Open Letter” titled “A Common Word Between Us and You” to Christian leaders calling for peace and understanding between these two religious communities on the basis of the core principles of Islam and of Christianity. Every major Islamic country or region in the world is represented in the message, which is addressed to the leaders of all the world’s churches and to all Christians everywhere.
The main message of their text is that the most fundamental common…

August 29th, 2012

Jesus appears often in the Qur’an (in a total of 93 verses scattered throughout 15 suras or chapters), but with significant differences. The Qur’an refers to him as the “messiah,” but the word has a different theological import than in Christian thought. In Muslim understanding, Jesus was not more than a creature, a human being. He is not divine. He did not die on the cross (it was a look-alike, possibly Simon of Cyrene or an apostle) nor rise from the dead. The Qur’an seems to indicate that God caused him to ascend after his apparent death. Tradition has it that he will return at the end of time to usher in an age of justice and, after 40 years, will die and be buried in Medina with Muhammad, then rise in the general…

August 24th, 2012

Can you give me a brief description of how marriage prep works in the following situations where a Catholic is marrying a non-Christian? For example,

a)  Catholic marrying a Jew
b)  Catholic marrying a Muslim
c)  Catholic marrying a Buddhist


What rituals can be performed for the wedding that encompasses both faiths but still be valid in the eyes of the Catholic church?

The marriage preparation process is usually at the discretion of the pastor of the parish in which the Catholic is a member. Sometimes the diocese has programs like Pre-Cana or Engagement Encounter in place for couples from all the parishes. Whether participation in such programs is required may vary from place to place. 
The process will

August 8th, 2012

“Ecumenical” refers to the work for unity among different denominations of Christians. The question you raise is an inter-religious one because it relates to members of other world religions rather than other members of other Christian churches. The dialogue among Christians is not an interfaith or interreligious dialogue because, even though we belong to different traditions of Christian faith, we are still all members of the one world religion known as Christianity.

Regarding our relations with members of other religions such as Buddhism and Judaism, the Second Vatican Council’s A Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate), …recognizes the existence

August 1st, 2012

Yes, we do. What makes Christians unique from other monotheists like Jews and Muslims, for example, is the belief that who God is and what God is like, we find most clearly in Jesus. So for Christians, the way to God is through …Jesus and in the power of his Holy Spirit.

Not cultivating a personal relationship with Jesus would be like buying a house and being handed the keys to it, and then trying to get into the house without using the door. Pentecostal and evangelical piety really gives central importance to putting the key in the door, opening it, and stepping inside to enjoy the warmth and intimacy of home, of life-in-God through Jesus. Catholic piety stresses this, too. The best example is the centrality of the Eucharist

July 25th, 2012

Well, it’s natural enough to want to go and see the place for yourself. Even people who know nothing about Islam use Mecca as a synonym for the ultimate goal. Every Muslim is required to make the pilgrimage (hajj) once in her or her lifetime; it’s one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Non-Muslims are not, however, able to participate in the hajj. The area around the two sacred cities of Mecca and Medina is a sacred area prohibited to non-Muslims. But nothing about the hajj itself is secret. Through several videos, you can vicariously share in the pilgrimage experience. In 1997 a team of Muslim camera men documented the hajj experience for ABC’s Nightline …and the 25 minute video is available at this link.

July 18th, 2012

Since the ecumenical movement was really founded in Scotland, I’m concerned because the Catholic Church has recently closed the only seminary they had there.  Does this mean that the more “ecumenical” we become the less “Catholic” we might become?…
In a logic text book, I think that would be called a “non sequitur” (the one does not follow from the other).
As you note, the World Missionary Conference that took place in 1910 in Edinburgh, Scotland, is generally considered to be the launch pad for what is today known as the ecumenical movement. Scotland, however, has by no means been the laboratory for that international  movement; it just happens to be where that meeting

July 11th, 2012

It might end up making you more committed to and active in your Catholic faith than ever. A study was done recently by a Church-related agency on the level of religious commitment among couples. It found that a high incidence of couples who were very engaged in the life of their parish were those in which one of the partners had been a member of another tradition of Christian faith and, over time, had become Catholic.
Why would that be? Perhaps because the fact that there were some differences there made each of the spouses more attentive to their faith and practice. Perhaps because through dialogue and seeking ways to pray together, a shared faith life came to mean all that more to them.
It’s easy to imagine the situation…

February 10th, 2010

Question:  In a world of particularity, where people have so many choices that they don’t know what to choose sometimes, doesn’t interfaith and ecumenical dialogue just confuse us more?  How can we retain our particularity while still staying open to dialogue with other faiths?

If you’re not well grounded in your own faith, then yes, ecumenical and interfaith dialogue could have the effect of confusing you. But, as the saying goes, if you know where home is, you can go anywhere with benefit. If, however, you don’t know where home is, you’ll probably get lost or confused.
What many fail to understand about the situation of dialogue is that it presumes …the people engaging in it have a clear

January 27th, 2010

In the United States thee are three formal regional dialogues between Catholics and Muslims: the West coast; the Midwest; and the Mid-Atlantic. Each dialogue is focusing on a different topic. In 2005, for example, the Midwest dialogue published a little book on Revelation: Catholic and Muslim Perspectives. …The Mid-Atlantic dialogue has been working the past few years on the topic of Catholic-Muslim marriages. The resource materials they developed for both couples and clergy should soon be available on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website where reports from other dialogues are already posted  at this link http://www.usccb.org/seia/islam_index.shtml.

The Mid-Atlantic dialogue on

October 15th, 2009

Here are several ways in which the two religions differ:

Incarnation: The big difference is what Christian theology calls “the Incarnation”, or the “enfleshment” of God as one of us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
Trinity: Closely related to this is the revelation of God as a community of relations—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If one looks at Jewish mysticism the idea of God being internally dialogical is not so strange.  Jewish mystical tradition hold a vision of God as ten-fold, the sephirot emanating from the eternal One, the wholly other.  By the last of the emanations, God is approachable by humanity.
Scripture:We share the bulk of Sacred Scripture, but not the New Testament which Jews

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