Inter-Religious Dialogue Commission


Mr William Ozanne
3 Grove Avenue
B13 9RU
Tel: 0121 449 3839
Email: [email protected]


Rev Fr Joseph The Quang Nguyen
Our Lady and St Peter
106 Hartshill Road
Stoke on Trent ST4 7LZ
Tel. 01782 844308
Email: [email protected]

Members of the Diocesan Commission:
Rev. Ray Collier, Mr B. Davies, Rev. J.Howard,Rev. Gaareth Jones (observer) Rev. Bernard Kelly, Barbara McGowan, Rev. Joseph The Quang Nguyen, Sister Anna O’Connor, Mr. W. Ozanne, Mr.Erik Pearse, Rev. S. Pimlott, Sister Helen Ryan, Sandra Satchell, Dr. J. Seferta.







The Commission now has 16 members.

Sandra Satchell, (Youth) Rev. Ray Collier,(Inner City) Mr B. Davies, (Rugby)Rev. J .Howard,
(Hospital Chaplaincy)Rev. Bernard Kelly, (Saltley)Rev. Joseph The-Quang Nguyen,(North
Staffordshire)[Acting Chair], Sister Anna O’Connor,  (University Chaplaincy), Bill Ozanne [Secretary]
Mr. Erik Pearse, (Wolverhampton)Rev. S. Pimlott,(Stourport) Sister Helen
Ryan, (Lozells and Citizens movement)Dr. J. Seferta, (Expertise in Islam) .
Sister Sujata, (Inner City Handsworth,, Rev. Ton Zwart,(Aston), Advisor: Rev
Gareth Jones, (Methodist expert on West Midlands Faith Groups) Barbara McGowan(Coventry)

Objectives and Strategies for the Commission:

  • To produce a booklet with guidelines for visiting places of worship of differing faiths.

This was a complex issue: (i) where quite a
number of places of worship of other faiths now provided guidelines for visitors as to the behaviour expected, especially since the Faith Encounter Programme had developed, it seemed inappropriate for the Commission to devise a collection of these. (ii)The issue of how we advised our Catholic colleagues to behave when visiting other places of worship was quite a different issue, as with what advice we should give to members of other faiths visiting our churches or being present at Mass or Devotions.(iii) The question of shared prayer or worship had been studied before and some guidelines issued under the aegis of the Bishops Conference committee for Other Religions. “To pray or to be Present”. It seems that one can be present simply to observe, or to share in silence while others pray, but care must be taken to avoid confusion or compromise of the Catholic faith when one is expected to take part in any of the prayer words or actions of another religion. The Quang was volunteered to draft a template letter for use when a visit to a place of worship is organised.

Some of the concerns were (a) to avoid syncretism in our belief and practice (b) to avoid giving our hosts and colleagues confusing messages about our beliefs. This was similar to one of the key guidelines in the use of Catholic premises by people of other faiths issued by the Pontifical Council in 1992.[
Outcome: at 23rd February: Letter of introduction apllying for a visit, a CCBEW leaflet on visiting a Mosque and one on inviting people of other Religions to a Catholic church, a Coventry Church of England leaflet on visiting a Mosque, various guidelines by Faith groups on tours of their place of worship including a draft of one for visiting a Catholic church.] 

  • To consult Revd. David Oakley on the current preparation for meeting Other Faiths in the clergy formation programme at Oscott College. Father The Quang had visited Oscott and given a talk to a group of students there at Fr. Oakley’s invitation.[Outcome: There is now a 10 credit (ie one full semester) module on Interfaith dialogue in sixth year, taught by Fr David Oakley.Fr Ziggy is in touch with Rabbi Jacobs, and plans to invite him into the Hebrew programme
  • That the Commission should inform itself about the Maryvale work on Other Faiths.This has not yet been followed up: Bill Ozanne volunteered to make enquiries early in the New Year
  • That the Commission identify people who are interested in and informed about Other Faiths among the Religious communities.The Commission felt that with Fr. Collier (Columban), Fr. Kelly (Crusaders of the Holy Spirit), Sister Anna O’Connor (St Paul Selly Park), Sister Helen Ryan (Mercy Sisters) , Fr. Zwart (Missionaries of the Sacred Heart) the Commission had already a good basis for this. There was discussion on whether the local community of Sisters of Zion would be involved, but this had not proved successful in the past.
  • To have a session on Chaplaincies and other faiths.It was an initiative that would be pursued actively to bring together a meeting of Chaplains from the different areas, Education, Hospital Prison, Industry to exchange experience on dealing with other faiths. [Brian Davies would provide an outline programme for a session (?)]. Sister Anna, Rev. Gareth Jones and Fr Jeremy Howard would have an interest in this. It was made very cogent in July by the resignation of Mgr. Malachy Keegan from his post as principal Chaplain to prisons, negotiations between the Bishops’ Conference and the government and Archbishop Nichols Sir Harold Hood memorial lecture in Brixton Prison, all highlighting the implications of “generic chaplaincy”.[ Update:Brian Davies has produced a format for an outline programme for a session with chaplains]
  • In publicising the teaching of the Church on relations between religions, Nostra Aetate should remain the key document.[Update: Brian Davies has produced a PowerPoint summary of “Nostra Aetate]

further work on this.

  • Perhaps engage university students in some way.This would be taken up with Sister Ann and Gareth Jones.
  • To organise a day for the Diocesan Clergy [Outcome: now September 14 with Archbishop KevinMcDonald as principal speaker].
ISSUES that were discussed:


The “Riots
” : It was agreed that it was mistaken to lump
together all the lawlessness as riot.Fr. Collier reported on a meeting held in Handsworth by the police and local community leaders including ten Faith Leaders, to give a forum for ongoing discussion. It was called the Summerfield Forum. The membership was about 40% Muslim and 40% of the Black community. The Sikh community had made a quantity of video coverage of the events locally and some of this was shown at the meeting. There was some discomfort among the Black community about the role of the Sikhs in this. It is clear that the Police are trying to engage with the local community, especially the Black members in a positive development to prevent misinformation or stereotyping.. There are to be regular discussions

Interreligious dialogue in Catholic  Schools
: There is a recognition of different religions in Catholic schools. Some schools had made formal visits to places of worship of other religions. In Primary schools some had made an introduction to Judaism as part of the First Holy Communion development in understanding the Eucharist and the Jewish Seder. Usually one other faith is included for a week of the curriculum. Informal education is done within the classroom using the experience and celebrations of class members of other religions. Opportunity can be offered to Secondary schools to raise awareness of the Church’s commitment to interreligious dialogue. It was proposed to contact the Primary Schools Partnership of the Birmingham area to establish how many schools went on formal visits. This links with how many parishes have pupils of other Faith or Secular Schools visiting the Church as part of their R.ECurriculum


Issues raised from experience in dialogue:

(1) The caste system in Hinduism is still to be cracked.

(2) Christians converted from other religions experience hot rejection from their old co-religionists and cold reception from the new ones.

Additional observation:
recently a visiting academic enquired where he could meet a Catholic expert on Islam. It became clear that Dr. Joseph Seferta is the only one we seem to have in the Birmingham area.


Meetings attended by members of the Commission:

Among the many routine meetings in 2012 are: the West Midlands Faith Forum, the City of Birmingham Council, Round Table, Faith Encounter Programme executive, Council of Christians and Jews, Opening of the new Faith and Community centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Government consultations on the “Lozells Project and Birmingham Citizens events, Wolverhampton Faith and Regeneration Network, Birmingham Council of Faiths Riots”, Christian Muslim Forum/ Faithful Neighbours conference, World Harmony Week conference at GNNSJ,  
Bill Ozanne 20/02/2012. 


Bishops conference Teaching Document: MEETING GOD IN FRIEND AND STRANGER:

Meeting God in

Friend and Stranger

Summary of the document


Meeting God in Friend and Stranger

Fostering respect

and mutual understanding between the religions


Meeting God in Friend and Stranger



It Is a teaching document given by the Bishops in England and Wales to invite Catholics to enter into dialogue with members of other religions. This is important because:

1. Our faith in God prompts us to journey with others to his Truth which is revealed when we open our hearts to the Spirit.

2. There is a need to clarify the vision of Religion, as distinguished from human weakness that beclouds it, for the purpose of promoting peace.


As we listen carefully to others in dialogue, we take the risk of emptying ourselves, not just of our premature judgments but also of the familiar interpreting system that normally protects us when we try to understand something new and different.

The task requires openness, patience, courage, mutual respect, and truthfulness. It is the Holy Spirit who harmonises these that enables us to listen to Christ in the people of other beliefs, be that of a religion or an ideology – those who may live in the same household, neighbourhood, city, or country with us. At the same time the Spirit enables us to allow Christ to speak to them through us.


Dialogue is bigger than discussion of concepts, important though they are. It is a frame of mind or an attitude that allows us to live with others as good neighbours. It is a response to the call to be Christ to others, and to listen to as well as to serve Christ in others.

Social context

The background factors which determine the nature of Inter-religious dialogue in the country are:

1. People of the multicultural Britain have different religious needs and some adjustment of forms of worship and codes of conduct.

2. Easier communication enables many to learn what is going on in different parts of the world more quickly. This may dictate the attitude shown to the people concerned.

3. The Catholic Church has become more tolerated by the political establishment and enriched by a multi-racial community. She promotes respect for and dialogue with the many cultures, religions, philosophies and outlooks on life. However, she rejects relativism which makes faith individualistic. Her commitment to dialogue stems from the conviction that the one true God who gives himself to all, can be seen working in other religions.


The Bishops encourage Catholics to

1. Be living witnesses to the love of neighbour in being the voice of the voiceless, even on facing hostility.

2. Collaborate with members of other religions in fields where they have similar concerns and values.

3. Invite them to do likewise, especially where injustice to Christians needs to be addressed.

4. Support the civil authorities in upholding values that ensures the common good.

Church’s commitment

Church’s documents, such as Nostra Aetate and Redemptoris Missio, and the inter-religious activities of the Popes since Vatican II have shown the Church’s commitment to a relationship of mutual understanding and reciprocal enrichment with other religions. The purpose of this commitment is to promote, by word and example, unity, charity and peace among people.

Led by the Holy Spirit

Since Christ’s Spirit has been leading members of other religions to the Truth, the Church and religions have a positive relationship to each other.

Dialogue is not a research to build a better school of thought or to find a better way to proselytise but an attempt to go deeper into the mystery of the Truth. Dialogue does not replace evangelisation but remains orientated towards the proclamation of the saving Truth.

Inter-religious prayer service

Dialogue is the work of the Spirit, and it is impossible to be in touch with the Spirit without humility and prayer. Since prayer is an expression of our belief, in dialogue, we don’t come to pray together but we come together to pray. The document gives some helpful practical suggestions and guidelines for multi-religious prayer.

Inter-religious Marriage

Practically, the promotion of charity and peace can begin with that of family values. Catholics are to collaborate with religions, as much as in conscience they are able, in witnessing to the dignity and importance of marriage in contemporary British society.

Church’s support for Inter-religious Marriage Preparation includes assuring the couple of the Church’s respect for other religions, informing them of the Church’s teaching on marriage and of Canon Laws, learning from the non-Catholic their religion’s teaching on and cultural observances in marriage.

Since Inter-religious dialogue has a social effect, it cannot exclude Civil authorities whose attitudes can be politically dictated. As we are encouraged to cooperate with the government in public services, we are also reminded to remain true to Catholic principles and values.

Civil and Religious authorities

In order to be effectively involved in dialogue with other religions and Civil authorities, we need to know and respect the Church’s teaching. In our involvement with inter-religious relations, we seek not to be more privileged but to serve the common good. Our ‘all level engagement’ must be seen as a commitment of the whole Church, rather than a new local movement. It is, therefore, right that we should pass the greetings from the Holy See to the other religions on their special celebrations

Unity but not conformity

Rather than dismissing our identity, dialogue leads to a deeper understanding of faith and a celebration of unity in diversity. For this reason, children in Catholic schools are encouraged to practise their own faith and reflect on the facts about other religions so that they can gain insights from them.


The concluding reflections of the document state that to turn away from even the attempt to dialogue is to despair of the power of God and of his risen Son to advance his own Kingdom of peace and love.

This summary of Meeting God in Friend and Stranger was prepared by the Inter-Religious Dialogue Commission of the Birmingham Archdiocese.

We hope you find it informative. The full document can be found in pdf format or ordered from CTS on




Vision and Mission
Inspired by the Biblical vision of “gathering into one the scattered children of God” (Jn 11:52), our Church teaching on relations with other religions and our own faith experience, the Commission for Inter-Religious Dialogue aims to promote throughout the diocese a greater awareness and understanding of other faiths, through dialogue, prayer and action.

In particular the commission seeks:
to raise the profile of interfaith dialogue and understanding in the diocese as an integral part of our own evangelising mission and spirituality;
to maintain a balance between the four interdependent forms of dialogue:
1. the dialogue of faith;
2. the dialogue of life;
3. the dialogue of action;
4. the dialogue of religious experience.
(Cf. Dialogue & Proclamation 42-43)
to ensure that we remain true to Catholic teaching in the way our faith is presented in interfaith dialogue and to seek reciprocity;
to provide training and workshops about dialogue and understanding for both clergy and lay-people;
to network & communicate with all Catholics in the diocese who identify with our vision and aims;
to identify and make available resources for interfaith dialogue, prayer and action;
to make contact with key leaders of other Faith Communities in the diocese and encourage people to do the same at local level with a view to dialogue;
to keep abreast of communications from relevant sources (Rome, the Committee for Other Faiths of CBCEW, Interfaith Co-ordinators of other dioceses, CTBI, the National Inter Faith Network, West Midlands Faith Forum etc);
to collaborate with organisations and diocesan programmes that might share common ground with us (e.g. Justice & Peace and Catechetics);
to keep the Archbishop advised on interfaith matters.

Love & Respect – recognising every person as a beloved child of God in whom God’s Spirit dwells. (Cf. Dominum et Vivificantem)
Freedom – based on the dignity of the human person. “Everyone has the right to the free exercise of religion in society” (Dignitatis Humanae 1&2; Pacem in Terris 14; c.f. UN Declaration of Human Rights).
Unity – “considering what people have in common and what draws them to fellowship. One is the  community of all peoples, one their origin… One also is their final goal, God.” (NA 1).
Truthfulness – understanding that “the Church rejects nothing that is true and holy” (NA 1).
Justice & Peace – aware of the injustices that have been done in the name of religion yet also aware that we are “called to live in peace with all men” (Rom 12:18).
Honesty & Forgiveness – forgiveness given for past offences against us, just as we ask for forgiveness from other religions for Christian offences against them.
Hope – that with God’s help his scattered children will be gathered into one human family (Cf. Jn 11:52), so providing the dynamic for pursuing our mission.

For Inter Religious Web Links, go to the LINKS page.

Inter Faith Groups in the Diocese with Catholic Representatives:
Banbury Inter Faith [email protected]
Birmingham Council of Faiths [email protected]
Birmingham Faith Leaders’ Group [email protected]
Burton upon Trent Inter Faith Network [email protected]
Coventry Inter-Faith Group
Coventry Multi-Faith Forum [email protected]
Dudley Borough Interfaith Network [email protected]
Moseley Inter Faith Group [email protected]
North Staffordshire Forum of Faiths [email protected]
Oxford Round Table of Religions [email protected]
Perry Barr Multi-Faith Network [email protected]
Rugby Inter Faith Forum [email protected]
Sandwell Multi-Faith Network [email protected]
Solihull Faiths Forum [email protected]
Solihull Inter Faith Dialogue Group [email protected]
Sparkbrook Muslim-Christian Dialogue Group
Stafford and District Friends of Faith Network [email protected]
Stratford upon Avon
Telford and Wrekin Interfaith Group (TWIG) [email protected]
Walsall Multifaith Forum [email protected]
Warwick District Faiths Forum [email protected]
Wolverhampton Faith and Regeneration Network [email protected]
Wolverhampton Inter Faith Council [email protected]
Worcestershire Inter-Faith Forum [email protected]
Council of Christians and Jews Branches in the region Birmingham [email protected]

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