Vatican to Establish Secretariat to Deal with Non Christian Faiths

A special secretariat to promote good relations with the principal non-Christian religions will be set up by the Vatican, according to an announcement made this weekend by Pope Paul VI.

The Pope’s announcement was contained in a letter to Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, deacon of the College of Cardinals and head of the Presidential Council of the Ecumenical Council which opens its second session on September 29.

(The New York Times reported from Rome today that the new interfaith secretariat would probably be concerned with Oriental and Middle Eastern religions but not with the Jewish religion. “Jewish-Catholic relations are currently the concern of the Secretariat for Christian Unity,” the Rome correspondent emphasized.)

While the Pope gave no indication whether non-Christian religious observers had been invited to the resumed Council session, Vatican sources said here today that formation of the new secretariat leaves the door open for the participation of non-Christian observers at the Council session, although no plans have yet been made to this end.

(In New York, the American Jewish Committee said: “We warmly welcome the step by Pope Paul VI to extend the scope of the Secretariat to include relationships with non-Christian religions. This action will contribute to much desired increased understanding among all religions and it will, of course, substantially advance Catholic-Jewish amity. This step of His Holiness is in keeping with the spirit that prompted the historic accomplishments for the enhancement of human understanding of his saintly predecessor. Pope John XXIII.”)

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