Story by Carl Sisolak
On Friday Mar. 20, the Mount Angel Abbey Bookstore was the location for a discussion on ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue presented by Fr. Al Baca from the Diocese of Orange. The event was hosted by seminarians Dario Rinaldi and Martin Magyar, the chairs for the Ecumenical Committee.
Baca said that we all have grown up in an ecumenical and inter-religious atmosphere. Baca said that Catholics were doing ecumenism long before the Second Vatican Council.
Baca began with making some initial and important distinctions between ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. Ecumenical dialogue is dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations. Inter-religious dialogue is with Non-Christian Churches and other religions such as the Hindi, the Buddhists and the Muslims, as well as the Mormons.
The goal of ecumenism, said Baca, “ is full organic Communion where one day we will all participate in the seven sacraments.” Baca said, “There are non-negotiable elements of this goal such as seven sacraments as noted and a belief in the Trinity.”
Baca then proceeded to speak about those groups that are closest to Roman Catholicism and some of the ways that he and his Ecumenical Committee of 25 in his office are trying to promote this dialogue and sense of unity, including between Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. These churches are closest to Roman Catholicism because, said Baca, “the essentials are already in place and we can focus on the non-essentials.”
In working with the Orthodox, Baca spoke about ideas and suggestions for starting dialogue. These are not only ideas that his ecumenical team are implementing but also ideas and suggestions that seminarians could put into practice.
Baca’s approach includes a kind of door-to-door evangelization in his community in Orange. For example, he would knock on people’s door and ask them if he could do anything for them, such as pray for their needs or even just ask if he could talk with them for a few minutes.
Baca said, “Go out of your way to smile, say hello . . . The Roman Catholic Church expects you to be ecumenical.” Baca concluded, “If we don’t keep reaching out we are going to become isolated. The Roman Catholic Church is always involved in the community.”