Roman Catholic Church and Indigenous Religions

There is news today about a conference being held in Rome through this coming Friday to explore “the resources for peace in traditional religions.” These “traditional religions” are the innumerable local religions which have often been referred to as “animist.”

One of the tasks of this conference, convened by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, is to clear up some of the misunderstandings about indigenous traditions and to honor those values that they offer for the challenges of peace in our modern world.

It is commendable that the Catholic Church has come to affirm and respect the gifts of indigenous religious traditions. The one sour note in the report of the conference is that out of the millions of people who follow them, none will be present in Rome. The conference is made up only of scholars who study these traditions. Archbishop Fitzgerald, director of the Pontifical Council, commented, “it is somewhat difficult to engage in direct dialogue with them.”The conference is a step in the right direction. Let us hope that the difficulty of direct dialogue proves ultimately to be a challenge and not a hindrance.

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