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  • In Memoriam:Father Jacques Dupuis
  • Greg Watts

Theologian Fr. Father Jacques Dupuis has died in Rome. The eighty-one-year-old Belgian Jesuit was one of the leading thinkers in interfaith dialogue. His thirty-six years studying and teaching in India greatly influenced his ideas. From 1960 to 1984, he was professor of systematic theology at the Jesuit-run theological faculty, now Vidyajyoti Institute of Religious Studies, in New Delhi. In 1984 he left India to become professor of Christology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Father Dupuis hit the headlines when his 1997 book Towards a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism brought him into conflict with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and he was suspended from the Gregorian University. Following an investigation into his writings, the congregation issued a mild condemnation, complaining of some "ambiguities" in his work. His next book, Christianity and the Religions, which further developed his ideas about salvation and the way God is at work in other faiths, drew no reaction from the Congregation.

One of his key ideas was that of different "paths of salvation" being consistent with the traditional Catholic teaching that Jesus is the Word of God and the savior of humanity. In an interview in London last September, Fr. Dupuis said, "Prior to the Second Vatican Council you had great theologians like Father de Lubac, Father Balthasar and others who began to speak of human values that were found in the other religious traditions. Before them, the theological evaluation of the other religious traditions was very negative. Father Karl Rahner spoke not of the natural endowments present in other religious traditions but of, as he called it, elements of divine truth and grace. All these other religious traditions are understood as conducive to salvation." Since the council, this view has been developing more and more. The official Church document which comes close to considering the other religious traditions as pathways of salvation for their followers is Dialogue and Proclamation in 1991. "It said that it is true that with sincere practice of their own religious traditions that the members of those traditions can answer positively God's call and thus receive divine salvation in Jesus Christ. Pope John Paul II has stressed very much and very clearly the universal presence of the Holy Spirit among non-Christians and in the religious traditions to which they belong."

Greg Watts
Independent Catholic News


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