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Secretariat for Nonchristians


This secretariat was inaugurated by Pope paul vi on Pentecost Sunday 1964 with Cardinal Paolo Marella as its first president. The basis of its work was further established in ecclesiam suam, the first encyclical letter of Pope Paul, dated Aug. 6, 1964. In it he set forth the necessity and extent of the dialogue with others in which the Church must engage as an indispensable feature of its life in the face of religious pluralism. This need was further stated in Nostra Aetate (Oct. 28, 1965), the declaration of vatican council ii on the non-Christian religions. The secretariat was given a permanent role in the Roman Curia in the 1967 reform of the Church's central administration (Regimini Ecclesiae Universae ).

From its inception, the secretariat sought to initiate contact and dialogue with all other major religions (except for Judaism, which came under the purview of the secretariat for promoting Christian unity). Over the years, the secretariat had shown itself to be both innovative and productive. Documents issued under its auspices reflect the expertise of its permanent staff and worldwide consultors. In addition to its Bulletin, published three times a year, the secretariat issued both general and specific guidelines for engaging in dialogue with various religious groups, a brief presentation of the Catholic faith for use by non-Christians, and in-depth studies of the religious experience itself. The secretariat sought to engage experts from other religious traditions directly in its own meetings. In 1988 the secretariat was reorganized under Pope John Paul II's apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus (1988), and renamed the pontifical council for interreligious dialogue.

[j. f. hotchkin/eds.]

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