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Today, the Church prays for the unity, the full communion, of all the baptized, in a way and at a time that the Lord, through the work of the Holy Spirit, will arrange.
In recent times, it was Pope John XXlll who gave a major push to Church unity at the beginning of Vatican II. It was he who introduced the word “ecumenical” into Catholic vocabulary, meaning by this, a communion of Christian churches united by baptism and the Eucharist, in discipleship with Christ.
The Vatican Council also introduced us to ecumenical dialogue, that is, to speak to and to listen to those others belonging to the vast Christian oikumene (universe).
The way is long and arduous, for the churches have to overcome the prejudices of the past and the many historical wrongs which each group inflicted on the other.
Our challenge in Asia, however, is slightly different. It is inter-faith dialogue: reaching out to appreciate the world religions, and understanding their different ways of approaching God and society.
In India, for example, much has been done by way of understanding and adapting to Hinduism, Islam and even tribal religions, but the rise of fundamentalism everywhere threatens these precarious relations.
In fact, dialogue with Islam has become more urgent than ever. This is because so many Muslims identify the West with a Christendom which exists only in their fantasy, and also because so many Western Christians will not ask forgiveness for their exploitation of Muslim societies in the past.