Arinze: Spread Gospel message
By ERIN PIROUTEK
The Gospel is a message the whole world badly needs, said Cardinal Francis Arinze, in his lecture, "Message of the Gospel to a Religiously Pluralistic World at the Threshold of the Third Millennium."
"Two-thirds of humanity do not know Christ, or do not believe in him — or at least not yet," said Arinze, noting the Church's call to evangelization.
The fundamental message of Jesus Christ applies to a pluralistically religious world, according to the cardinal.
Many non-Christian religions, such as Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and traditional or tribal beliefs are ways of life that have guided humans for centuries.
"The Church believes the Gospel's plan of salvation includes not only Christians but Jews, Muslims, Hindus and other believers as well," Arinze said.
He emphasized that spreading the Gospel message does not include imposing belief in Jesus Christ on anyone.
No one should use force on matters of conscience, said Arinze, however, without Jesus Christ, human history remains fundamentally unexplained.
The central message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ deals with the vertical dimension of man's relation to God.
"When people accept they must be God-oriented," he said. "Then we have the fundamental orientation religion should give."
The horizontal dimension of religion relates to relationships with one's neighbor.
"Christ's injunction of brotherly love is unmistakable," said Arinze.
The Christian who neglects his duties to his neighbor jeopardizes his salvation, he said.
"If the whole world decided to follow the golden rule for two weeks, the world would be a small paradise ... the people who sell keys would be out of business," noted Arinze with a smile.
Two world wars, the Holocaust, terrorism and ethnic cleansing are indications that humanity must find an acceptable way of ironing out differences.
"Forgiveness and reconciliation are signs of spiritual strength, not weakness," said Arinze, noting the Christian doctrine of repaying evil with good.
"Inter-religious cooperation is best undertaken when it focuses on specific projects," said Arinze, citing respect for the dignity of human life as one example.
"The Church does not seek to impose this belief [against abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia] on others, but to share it and seek agreement," said Arinze.
"Human life is sacred from its beginning — it involves the creative action of God and is in a special relationship with God," he said.
Additionally, the Gospel of Jesus Christ shows great love for the poor and the downtrodden, from which is a key issue for all religions.
The Church has sought to cultivate solidarity — the basic unity of the human race, according to Arinze.
"Solidarity teaches the rich that the goods of this world are meant for all," he said.
However, despite the necessity for inter-religious dialogue, the cardinal cautioned that it is not without risk.
Relativism — the belief that one religion is good as another — is one of the greatest dangers. The Church rejects relativism, he said, because it may lead to the implicit denial of objective truth.
"Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life," emphasized Arinze.
Syncretism — the desire to form one religion out of many — is another concern.
"Such a religion of compromises is a religion of nobody and cannot be a good guide to anybody," Arinze said.
Arinze's lecture was sponsored by the theology department with support from the Henkels lecture series.
Laura Petelle contributed to this report.
All News Stories for Wednesday, November 3, 1999