On May 5, 2018, a Kolbean Convention took place, hosted by the Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure (Seraphicum). The theme of the Convention was: “Inter-religious Dialogue Calls upon the Militia of the Immaculate: A Reflection Starting with Kolbe.”
A day in the academic calendar is customarily set aside each year to reflect on new challenges, make contributions and offer orientations in light of the life and witness of faith of St. Maximilian KOLBE.
This year’s conference was moderated by Anna Maria CALZOLARO (Father Kolbe Missionary of the Immaculate). Two of its featured lecturers were Friar Silvestro BEJAN, OFM Conv., the Order’s General Delegate for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue (EDI) and Director of the International Franciscan Center for Dialogue, in Assisi (CEFID); and Friar Raffaele DI MURO, OFM Conv., the Director of the Seraphicum’s Kolbean Chair and the International President of the Militia of the Immaculate.
Friar BEJAN spoke on “The Urgencies of Interreligious Dialogue in the Teaching of Pope Francis,” remarking that “Pope Francis frequently uses the word ‘urgent’. Faced with the current world situation, the Pope makes strong references to urgency, using the word with different nuances each time: the ‘urgency for peace’, the ‘urgency for dialogue and encounter’, ‘urgent renewal’, ‘the urgent search for unity’, etc. According to the Pope, ‘we must not be afraid of encounter and true dialogue.’ We need to build a culture of encounter-dialogue and we need this culture to generate values, which Francis calls ‘great moral values’ (Address, June 6, 2015), in particular, justice, freedom and peace.”
In his presentation, Friar Silvestro also stressed that “besides peace, which is the most important value, Pope Francis lists other issues to address: “hunger, misery that afflicts millions of people, the environmental crisis, violence, in particular that committed in the name of religion, corruption, moral degradation, the crises of the family, the economy, finance and above all hope” (Audience, October 28, 2015). Pope Francis, in keeping with the Second Vatican Council, speaks of a Church that, in comparison with other faiths, does not deny its own identity: “Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself” (Nostra Aetate 2).
Friar Raffaele then spoke about “Kolbe, the Militia of the Immaculate and Dialogue”. His lecture focused on ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and Kolbe’s relationship with other religions which must be founded on “a constant attitude of great and sincere openness of heart towards every brother.” Friar DI MURO stressed that “Maximilian KOLBE did not understand interreligious dialogue in the way it is currently understood in the theology and sensibility of believers today. From the expressions he used, we understand that his approach to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc., was characterized by his desire that they be converted to Christianity, the only way to salvation. St. Maximilian acted with the utmost delicacy, offering a splendid testimony of charity thanks to his ability to engage in dialogue, which reached its peak at Auschwitz. Thus, the Militia of the Immaculate can work alongside Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc., to make peace and to lift humanity from the social tragedies that have gripped it for some time.”
As Friar Raffaele concluded, he stressed that “St. Maximilian asks the Militia of the Immaculate to be present everywhere in society, to promote itself in every type of environment and to enter into all kinds of dialogue. We need a Militia which goes in search of those who are open to dialogue and those who, despite confessing different faiths, want to share a path of peace and love, marked by serene and fruitful dialogue.”
That need for dialogue was also stressed by Friar Dinh Anh Nhue NGUYEN, the Dean of the Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure. In his concluding remarks, he mentioned how “it is necessary to be strong in one’s identity and open to dialogue, in awareness of how this presupposes a culture of listening, without prejudice, in order to witness to Christ and the love of Christ, also in dialogue.”
At the end of the conference there was a theatrical performance entitled “Our Fathers” – the Kolbe story as told by Franciszek GAJOWNICZEK (the father of a family for whom Kolbe offered to exchange his life). The play starred Davide CAPONE and was directed by Antonio TARALLO.
Elisabetta LO IACONO – Seraphicum Press Office
Photo: Friar Franciszek CZARNOWSKI, OFM Conv.