Parliament of the World’s Religions had broad impact

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The Tai Ji Men Qigong Academy performs as members of faith, spiritual and cultural communities take part in the Parade of Faiths on Aug. 13, 2023, down Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago. The parade was a preview event for the Parliament of the World’s Religions at McCormick Place Aug. 14-18. The parliament was founded in Chicago in 1893 and has convened six times over 30 years. (Cindy Flores Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)

More than 6,000 religious leaders from around the country gathered at McCormick Place Aug. 14-18 for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and many local Catholics also took part.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is billed as the largest, most diverse and most inclusive interfaith convening of people of faith, spirituality and goodwill.

Its origins are rooted in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where the historic first convening of the World Parliament of Religions created a global platform for engagement of religions of the East and West and was thereafter recognized as the birthplace of the modern interfaith movement.

This year’s theme was “A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom and Human Rights.”

Catholics from across the archdiocese presented at the event on topics such as Catholic-Buddhist dialogue, the challenges of mixed Christian marriages and Christian-Jewish relations.

On Aug. 16, Cardinal Cupich was among the leaders who addressed the issue of conscience during a plenary (see page 5). And on Aug. 17, Bishop Robert Casey, vicar general, joined 12 other Christian leaders in signing a declaration on the care for creation (see page 7). 

On Aug. 14, the parliament presented the inaugural Very Rev. Thomas A. Baima Global Ethic Award to Daniel Gómez-Ibáñez, a former trustee, chair and executive director of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Baima, who passed away in April 2022, was vicar for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of Chicago and provost of University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein University, and a key figure in the parliament’s work, especially on the Global Ethic that leaders, including Cardinal Cupich, signed at the event.

At the end of his Aug. 16 plenary remarks, Cardinal Cupich expressed his support for the Global Ethic and its relationship to the archdiocese.

“The Global Ethic and the Archdiocese of Chicago are forever related. Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was an original signer,” he said. “The late Very Rev. Thomas A. Baima, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, was instrumental in the writing of the Global Ethic. Father Baima was vital in helping the various contributors find consensus on the words and phrases that would coalesce to become the seminal declaration. All of us at the archdiocese are grateful that the Parliament has honored Father Baima’s work on the Global Ethic by inaugurating a Global Ethic Achievement award in his name.”

“My hope is that this declaration, which expresses the ethical commitments held in common by the world’s religious, spiritual, and cultural traditions, can be a guide and sure foundation for ethical decision-making in our day. May its call for respect for life, economic justice, truth and compassion, women’s rights, and care for the earth, help form the consciences of all, while enhancing the awareness that we are interconnected,” he said.

The work that the Archdiocese of Chicago, in particular, does with other faiths and other Christians was highlighted during the parliament, said Susan Pudelek, associate director of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. 

She has been a part of an international Catholic-Buddhist dialogue and shared that work at the parliament.

“We have an ongoing really strong dialogue with our Buddhist friends. Bringing our sense of peace, harmony, listening, all kinds of ways in which we really connect well with them we were able to share,” she said.

Pudelek called the parliament “a microcosm of humanity.”

“It’s people from all over the world at this one place in this one time who chose to come together, the point being to come together from our deepest spiritual understandings for love and peace and with respect for our common humanity,” she said.

For her, Cardinal Cupich’s participation showed Catholics why the Second Vatican Council called for interreligious and ecumenical dialogue.

“If you want an experience of what it is like to be human in the world and feel everybody from all these different cultures and religions, you come here,” she said.

Dan Olsen, director of the archdiocese’s Office for Interreligious and Ecumenical Affairs, said the Parade of Faiths on Aug. 13 was one of the highlights of the event for him.

Parliament participants dressed in traditional attire and processed through the streets around McCormick Place in a representation of faith.

“It was a blending of the cultural and religious traditions that is so much of a reality for us that I think we don’t celebrate this as much,” he said.

The sounds and ethnic clothing of the other religious traditions moved Olsen.

“There weren’t a lot of people lining the streets, but it had an energy about it that I will never forget,” he said.

The parliament gave his office an opportunity to work with various parishes and departments to share the work that they do, he said.

“It allowed us to advance what we think is a core ministry of Pope Francis’ — to engage in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, locally and to let people know about this work in new ways,” Olsen said. “It really was an opportunity to do that that will only come once in a lifetime, and I was just grateful for that.”


  • interreligious dialogue
  • ecumenism

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