Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Welcome back, Parliament of the World’s Religions

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

With great joy, I welcome the thousands of people representing more than 80 nations who will gather in Chicago Aug. 13-18 for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. My first experience with the parliament came when I traveled to Toronto to deliver a plenary address at the 2018 convening. There I saw firsthand the diversity and vitality found at this largest worldwide gathering dedicated to cultivating harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities.

This year’s theme, “A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom and Human Rights,” urges participants defend the freedom and human rights of all, especially those most in need. Rooted in the diverse beliefs and practices found among the world’s religious traditions and spiritual communities, attendees will explore ways to bring about a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. Knowing it is vital that the Catholic Church remain involved in these principled conversations for the good of our community and world, I welcome the opportunity to take part in these discussions as part of a plenary session at the invitation of the parliament leadership.

In his 2020 encyclical, “Fratelli tutti,” Pope Francis teaches that “the different religions, based on their respect for each human person as a creature called to be a child of God, contribute significantly to building fraternity and defending justice in society. Dialogue between the followers of different religions does not take place simply for the sake of diplomacy, consideration, or tolerance. In the words of the Bishops of India, ‘The goal of dialogue is to establish friendship, peace and harmony, and to share spiritual and moral values and experiences in a spirit of truth and love’” (271).

The upcoming convening of the parliament is an opportunity to live out the Holy Father’s teaching that a core part of our identity as Catholics involves building friendship between members of different religious traditions. Through our sharing of spiritual and ethical values, we get to know one another. This understanding equips us to address together the social and moral challenges we face in an increasingly secularized world.

The “instrumentum laboris” (working document) for the synod gathering in Rome this October builds on this sentiment when it states that “a synodal church is called to practice the culture of encounter and dialogue with believers of other religions and with cultures and societies in which it is embedded, but above all among the many differences that run through the church itself” (25). Through encountering members of many distinct religious and spiritual communities at the parliament, Catholic participants can better understand and experience the synodal way of dialogue across differences, whether cultural, social or religious. 

Moreover, local Catholics will encounter Catholics from Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania and South America, allowing them to experience firsthand the rich diversity that makes up the global Catholic communion. The parliament is a unique opportunity for Catholics in Chicago to take part in Pope Francis’ call to grow into a more synodal church.

Headquartered in Chicago, the parliament has long partnered with the archdiocese to support the goals of interreligious dialogue, and the archdiocese will be well represented at the parliament. Please consider visiting the archdiocesan booth in the exhibit hall, as well as the “Catholic room” dedicated to hospitality for Catholic attendees and anyone else who may want to stop by for conversation or a moment of quiet reflection.

A special on-site Mass is being organized for the Feast of the Assumption on Aug. 15. On Aug. 17, local Christian leaders will gather to jointly sign a declaration affirming our call to care for our planet. Expert theologians, spiritual leaders, artists and practitioners from the Catholic Church and each of the faith traditions found at the parliament will lead hundreds of presentations, workshops, art exhibits, musical performances and films, offering fresh insights and educational opportunities.

For these reasons and many more, I invite you to consider attending the Parliament of the World’s Religions as it returns to its birthplace in Chicago. Participating will help you grow in understanding the values and practices that guide members of other religious traditions, while giving you a much broader and deeper understanding of the worldwide Catholic Church. Perhaps most important, it will offer you an opportunity to grow in your own faith and understanding as you share with others what it means to be a Catholic Christian disciple in a changing and remarkably diverse world.