The Catholic Approach to other Religions

Conference for Primary and Secondary Teachers
27 June 2014

If Catholic teachers and their pupils are to be able to have an open and informed dialogue with people from other faith communities, they need to be well grounded in their own Christian faith but also to be able to “… acknowledge the values of others, appreciate the concerns underlying their demands and shed light on shared beliefs” [Evangelii Gaudium, n. 253].

The conference on 27 June for primary and secondary teachers of religious education, organised by the Teachers’ Enterprise in Religious Education (TERE) was the first stage in the development of resources for teachers on other faiths, linked to The Way, the Truth and the Life programme published by TERE. Almost 90 teachers from dioceses across England and Wales attended. The aim of the conference was to enable these specialist teachers to explore the Catholic approach to other faiths, to learn about beliefs and practices in Islam and Judaism and to reflect on how this might deepen their own understanding of the one God worshipped by the three faiths.

Dr Chris Hewer, a Catholic academic who has spent many years studying Islam and working with Christians and Muslims on our shared beliefs, led the morning session. After putting the development of the three Abrahamic faiths into their historical context, Dr Hewer focussed on Islam and explored a number of examples of Islamic beliefs and practices, drawing out similarities to and implications for Christians. For the teachers, it was an excellent example of “learning about” and “learning from” another faith.

In the afternoon, Dr Tali Chilson, a Catholic convert from Judaism, illustrated a range of Jewish celebrations, putting them in their religious and social context. She spoke about the Jewish identity and prayer in Judaism – a reminder to the audience that Jesus and the first disciples were Jews, used the Hebrew Bible and worshipped in the temple and synagogue.

The question and answer session that followed illustrated the keen interest the speakers had provoked.

Before concelebrating the Mass which ended the day, Cardinal Vincent Nichols commented on the positive impact that The Way, the Truth & the Life programme has had in the many schools in which it is used. He paid warm and generous tribute to the work of all the teachers who had contributed to TERE and, in particular, to the dedication and inspiration of Sister Marcellina Cooney, CP, who had founded and led TERE over the last 15 years.