Australian Marist, Gerard Hall sm, recently presented his Journey in Interreligious Dialogue to our Marist IRD Commission. His full presentation can be found here: This blog begins at the end, where Gerard writes his SUMMARY STATEMENT
I feel in many ways that my ecumenical and interreligious journey is just beginning if for no other reason than that my knowledge of other religious traditions is so minimal. Even though I was drawn to Panikkar's inter- & intra-religious dialogue with Hinduism & Buddhism and then, through circumstance, found myself involved in dialogue with Islam, in many ways, like Panikkar, I have been increasingly focused on the necessity of dialogue with our Indigenous traditions, especially in a world confronted by climate change and the seeming inability of political and economic forces to respond appropriately. In this regard I proudly point to Pope Francis' Laudato Si' On Care for our Common Home as the only way forward because it insists on the need for dialogue among religious, scientific and secular voices. As Pope Francis repeatedly states in a manner reminiscent of Panikkar's cosmotheandric (cosmic-divine-human) sensibility: "Everything is interconnected". That interconnection applies to all the world's religious and secular traditions.
My ecumenical and interreligious journey continues to be a grace and a blessing despite its profound challenges. I consider it an integral part of Christian mission in 21st century in line with Pope Francis' recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti (2020).
Most of my academic papers are available – sometimes with a slightly different title – @ https://gerardhallsm.wordpress.com/
Marists at IRD-Ranong-Thailand 2019: L-R: Gerard Hall, John Larsen - SG, Larry Sabud, Michael Jacques
Gerard began his life in Northern NSW in a strong Catholic Family, in a Protestant Village. In primary school he asked Sr Bonaventure how all the good Protestant people of Wiangaree could be 'saved'? This instinct, of God's welcome and embrace for all people was further explored at Woodlawn College, in the years of the 2nd Vatican Council - which opened up a whole new way of being Catholic in dialogue with the world's peoples, cultures, and religions. As a seminarian he came across Karl Rahner's theory of 'Anonymous Christianity' - a wonderful moment for him. Eventually Gerard did Post-Grad Studies, at the Catholic University of America, Washington, and was introduced to the thought of Indian-Catalan scholar - Raimon Panikkar - whose words "I came to India a Christian, found myself to be a Hindu, and became a Buddhist, all without ceasing to be a Christian" imploded on him. Later he to personally meet Panikkar, became good friends with him, and wrote his Doctoral Thesis on his works. His doctoral supervisors were Stephen Happel, Peter Phan, and Bill Cenker OP.
Interreligious Dialogue is always done in the context of Christian Mission. Steven Bevans, and Roger Schroeder SVD have developed the importance of Prophetic Dialogue to serve this mission. Gerard taught with Roger at the Holy Spirit Seminary, Port Moresby, in the mid-80s. He has been able to utilize a new entry point for theology, namely human expererince, developed by Karl Rahner SJ. This human experience is then brought into dialogue with our Christian Tradition, enabling us to then enter into dialogue with other religious traditions, political theologies, the mystical dimension of Christian/religious faith, and Intercultural Dialogue - all in terms of their own human experience. There is no acultural religion!
Gerard at Holy Spirit Seminary, Port Moresby, PNG.
Gerard was engaged in the Spirit of Religion Project, directed by Raimon Panikkar, held in Catalonia and Italy, 2006 - 2008: " Each meeting – called 'sangama' (Sanskrit) – was for a full week involving living, eating, praying, studying, reflecting and discussing with – and in the company of – our interreligious brothers and sisters. We would, for example, meet for thirty minutes each morning and evening at the rising and setting of the sun. We would sit in the grounds in a circle with crossed legs (some of us with higher cushions!) in total silence. That was the most extraordinary experience for me knowing we were all praying in our own tongues and traditions – and yet there was a profound meeting of spirits among us and, I would add, a profound experience of the Spirit or Ruah, Shakti or other names according to diverse traditions (noting, of course, that each tradition experiences the divine presence of what Christians call the Holy Spirit in its own unique way). This experience taught me something about not needing to be afraid of differences – even ultimate differences – among us, because there is something more profound in our shared human reality".
Raimon Panikkar, Young-chan Ro [Confuscian], Giuseppe Forzani [Buddhism], Milena Carrara [Pannikar scholar], Gerard, 'Aunty Joan' [Indigenous], Kala Acharya [Hindu]
Gerard is a founding member and Inaugural fellow of the Association of Practical Theology in Oceania [APTO]. A book which has emerged from the 2018 APTO Conference, which was held at St Peter Chanel Seminary, Suva, Fiji is called Weaving Theology in Oceania. The Key-note presentation was given by Donato Kivi SM A Marian-Ecological Spirituality for the Healing of the Vanua: the Land and the People. It is published as Ch.7
Other Involvements with Ecumenical and Interreligious Significance:
Member of the International Academy of Practical Theology [IAPT]
Academic Board of Centro Interculturale Dedicato a Raimon Panikkar
Academic Board of John Templeton Award for Theological Promise including 2010 Ecumenical Conference, University of Heidelberg, Germany.
Founding Editor of Australian eJournal of Theology