Bishop McGrattan at the Mosque

Bishop McGrattan, along with Imam Taha Syed, will be speaking at Baitan Nur Mosque, on the theme of Forgiveness, Punishment and Justice on September 9. Please see the Diocesan Dates listing on page 20 for all the details.

Our city has a wonderful relationship with the Muslim communities. The Diocese was one of the founders of the Muslim-Christian Dialogue in 2001. Bishop Henry was very friendly with the community, and attended several events, or spoke at Muslim-Christian dialogue groups. The Diocese has chaired the Muslim-Christian Dialogue for many years, and is continuing its role by co-chairing the Education Committee of the Calgary Interfaith Council, which won first prize in 2017 for Interfaith Dialogue excellence from His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Early Islamic Philosophy and Christian Scholasticism had interesting dialogue in the Middle Ages. For example, St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Contra Gentiles, mentions Islamic philosophers in some of his monologues. He appears to agree with Muslim philosophers in some cases, but also to disagree with them in others. Some scholars (such as James Windrow Sweetman) go on to say that many of the scholars of the time exchanged thoughts and religious ideas when understanding Monotheism (the belief in One God) and ethics. 

One theological idea with which both Islamic and Christian philosophers struggled was God’s determining of human destiny. Islamic philosophy emphasized determinism: the belief that God has determined all human destiny. Christian philosophy, while not wholly answering the paradox of God’s ultimate power and omnipotence, emphasized the importance of the human will in determining and working out justice in the world. Come see the interaction of these ideas in the dialogue between Christianity and Islam in Forgiveness, Punishment and Justice.

Bishop McGrattan will be speaking at Baitan Nur Mosque (4353 54 Ave. NE, Calgary), on the theme of “Forgiveness, Punishment and Justice” along with Islamic Imam Taha Syed on Sept. 9, 2017 from 4:30-6:00pm with a free dinner provided. 

Please RSVP by Sept. 8th to: 1-866-628-5435.

Related Offices Ecumenical & Interreligious Affairs Office
Related Themes Peace Inter-Religious Interfaith

Bishop Henry and Scholars Speak at Mosque on the Life of Jesus

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate which translates as In Our Time. The document is likely the most important contribution to the understandings of non-Christians since the Catholic and Protestant Reformations. The document, through the Council Fathers, sensitively explained that the Church’s message, in some areas, lacked a key approach that marked the people of God throughout the ages. The Council Fathers acknowledged that while the Church was clear in her message that non-Christian religions missed or misconstrued the person of Christ (and this is a grievous error), they sometimes failed to acknowledge the elements of truth in these religions. This was not meant to pave a new way for the modernism’s idea that analytic and scientific reasoning made religion into a mere symbol and thus a good way to live, or post-modern’s idea that religion is relativistic and everyone can choose to their path to follow God. Nostra Aetate, comparatively, followed in the Christian tradition that while everyone is called into a relationship with Christ and the Church, the “prevenient grace of God” could be at work in unexpected areas [Trent VI, LG 16].

Nostra Aetate can therefore be said to revive this Christian idea in our time: an idea that has always been a part of the theology of the Church. One of the documents that In Our Time quotes is a letter from Pope St. Gregory the VII to Nacir the Muslim King of Mauritania [1040-1085? AD]: “we believe in and confess one God, admittedly, in a different way, and daily praise and venerate him, the creator of the world and ruler of this world.” Pope St. Gregory is not being relativistic or condescending, following the recent popes of our time he is saying that “as Christians and Muslims, we encounter one another in faith in the one God” [St. John Paul II, address to representatives of the Muslims of Belgium, May 19, 1985]. It is important to nuance this with the fact that Christianity alone has the fullness of the understanding of God in Trinity [DI 5-6]. Pope St. Gregory was not alone in his approach, Catholic theology of the late nineteenth century picked up on this theme with Pope Pius X in his catechism acknowledging that Muslims were separate from pagans and “though admitting one true God, they do not believe in the Messiah, neither as already come in the Person of Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Henry and Ahmadiyyan Muslim scholars will be involved in a discussion on the nature and life of Jesus at the Baitun Nur Mosque. Join us for a free supper, dessert and a talk by Bishop Henry and other Christian and Ahmadiyyan Muslim scholars on Saturday, April 9. See the display ad on the facing page for more information.

The Ahmadiyyan Muslims are a community known for their Islamic background. They are unique in their belief that a man named Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the end times prophet, and that Jesus survived the crucifixion and spent the rest of his life in India. Join us as we seek to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” [1 Pet. 3:15] and to create a world where we “live in peace with all people,” [Rm. 12:18]

Related Offices Ecumenical & Interreligious Affairs Office
Related Themes Inter-Religious Interfaith

Ecumenical & Intereligious Affairs History

History of Ecumenism and Non-Christian Religions in the Church and in our Diocese:

  • 1272-1274 - The Second Council of Lyon attempted to reunite a section of Eastern Churches (today known as Orthodox Churches) with the pope and Western Bishops:
  •  1438-1442 - The Council of Florence again attempted a reunion with the Eastern Churches:
  • 1414-1418 - The Council of Constance ended the Western Schism where three "popes" fought for power over the Catholic Church. The Council also saw the emergence of proto-protestantism (sessions 14-45): 
  • 1964 - Unitatis Redintegratio: The Decree on Ecumenism clearly stated that those outside the Catholic Church are indeed Christians who share in the blessings and grace of the Holy Spirit. In the Decree both Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic groups are called out for jointly causing rupture in the Body of Christ. It is in this same rationale that they are called to joint mission in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ:
  • 1964 - The Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite: A document that protected the Eastern Church from those who historically have tended to "Latinize" the Catholic Church (aggressively promote the Latin or Western view of the Church, its liturgy, and spiritual customs as the only true version of Christianity). The document also paved the way for other Christian denominations entering into full-communion with the Catholic Church:
  • 1965 - Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church cites the importance of joining with other Christians in spreading the message and person Jesus Christ to those who do not believe in him:
  • 1965 - Nostra Aetate: Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions focussed on the communalities that Christianity must recognize in non-Christian religions. Special focus was also put on Christianity's duty to defend the Jews from any type of persecution. Emphasis was also on how Judaism shared in the promises of the Covenants given to Abraham and the other prophets:
  • 1963-1984
    • Leadership: Fr. Pat O'Byrne Dialogue with Jewish Faith Friendship with Rabbi Lewis Ginsberg
    • Friendship with all Christian denominations
    • Sandstone Valley Ecumenical Centre - RC/Lutheran Joint Venture
    • Prayer for Christian Unity Annual Services
    • Liaise with Centres for Ecumenism: Montreal and Saskatoon
    • Liaise with Evangelical Ministerial Association
  • 1967
    • First joint RC/Anglican prayer service. This service marked the opening of international Anglican/Roman Catholic dialogue.
  • 1970's
    • Joint effort by Anglicans, United and Roman Catholics to establish an ecumenical centre.
  • 1995 - Encyclical of Pope John Paul II, That They May Be One connects evangelization with ecumenism. Christ desires that all be one within the Catholic Church and rest of Christianity in a visible and spiritual sense.
    • Preparation and hosting Canadian Christian Festival
  • 1986-1999
    • Solicit core Ecumenists in Calgary Diocese
    • Host WDECE (Western Diocesan Eparchial Conferences for Ecumenism)
    • Host National Summer Ecumenical Institute
    • Host Ecumenical Study Days Organize Commission Representation on numerous local initiatives
    • Develop friendships in Christian denominations and other faiths
    • Organize Annual Prayer for Christian Unity services January each year
    • Initiate "The Fire in the Rose", Ecumenical project against violence
    • Support Bishop's Council - Anglican, Lutheran, RC
    • Manage the Covenant process - Anglican, Lutheran, RC
    • Provide Ecumenical input to the Synod process
    • Liaise with Centres for Ecumenism: Montreal and Saskatoon
    • Liaise with Evangelical Ministerial Association
    • Liaise with Calgary Council of Churches
    • Liaise with Franklin Graham Crusade
    • Analyze Ecumenical initiatives
    • Organize public prayer services concerning natural disasters
    • Advise priests' council on ecumenical issues
  • 1996
    • Signing of the Anglican/Lutheran/Roman Catholic Covenant in Calgary
  • 1999-2000 January 2 - RC Diocese office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs opens
    • 1991 and 1996- Canadian Ecumenical Leadership Award awarded for leadership in promoting Christian unity Presented by the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism to Everett Koeller and Anna Tremblay, respectively.
  • 2004 - Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ, Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) agreed on key elements in the veneration of Mary:
  • 2009 - November 9 - Personal Ordinariates given to Anglicans entering into the Catholic Church. Ordinariates allow Anglicans to hold to their rite and patrimony while being in full communion with the Catholic Church:
Related Offices Ecumenical & Interreligious Affairs Office
Related Themes Ecumenical Diocesan History Inter-Religious

Ecumenical & Interreligious: Commissions, Committees and Councils

The diocese is involved on a variety of groups that work to promote ecumenical and interreligous dialogue.

The Diocesan Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs works closely with the Coordinator in planning upcoming ecumenical events, advising the director in decisions to be made, and promoting ecumenism throughout the Diocese. Commission members are appointed by the bishop. Parish Ecumenical Representatives also work under the guidance of the Coordinator and each local Pastor to promote inter-Christian relationships through Christian Community Partnerships.

Calgary Council of Churches organizes and promotes the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity services in the City of Calgary in cooperation with parishes and congregations. The Calgary Council of Churches also organizes Thought for the Day, a religious reflection program with CTV Calgary. Membership is limited, but there is often room for additional Catholic members given the number of parishes within the city.

Abraham's Tent is a wonderful forum to promote understanding between monotheistic faiths within the city rooted in the calling of Abraham. There have been two Catholics representatives for most of the dialogue's history.

The Canadian Council for Christians and Jews, Alberta Chapter is a group of Christian and Jewish representatives who organize three events annually: the Spring Breakfast, an annual holocaust memorial, and a Fall Dialogue. Speakers and topics vary, and attendance at these events include new people each time. Membership is open to Christians and Jews who are interested in interfaith dialogue. Some members are also on the board which meets monthly to organize these events, and deal with organizational issues.

There are several other organizations within the city that have an ecumenical or interreligious focus:

Related Offices Ecumenical & Interreligious Affairs Office
Related Themes Ecumenical Inter-Religious

Sanctum Retreat 10th Anniversary

It began with a vision primarily of a place for personal retreat. It has become all that and more, flourishing as an ecumenical facility grounded in Eucharistic Presence and Respect for diverse human journeys.

This July marks the tenth anniversary of Sanctum Retreat, located at an almost equal distance between Edmonton and Calgary, a quiet gathering place on the cutting edge of Presence to all in the name of Christ.

Sanctum Retreat was founded as a centre for spiritual retreat and growth by Mariette and Kristoph Franz Dobrowolski, Catholic theologians, educators, secular Franciscans, musicians and spiritual directors. It received the blessing of both Bishop Frederick Henry and then Archbishop Thomas Collins to serve the people of Alberta.

“Our desire is to serve individuals and communities seeking to deepen their relationship with God, and indeed all those who share their gifts for the betterment of the community,” Mariette says. “Why go on retreat?” she reflects. “We come away to the quiet, where we rest awhile, as Jesus invites us to do. It’s a fast-paced world out there, and we take time apart to re-connect with ourselves and with what gives meaning to our lives. In an openness to encounter the mystery of God’s love within and amongst us, space is sanctified, and so are we. We embrace our dignity, and the dignity of those with whom we journey. Such is the heart of retreat. Such is Sanctum.”

“We have served over 11,000 guests since Sanctum’s opening in July 2004,” Kristoph adds. “And at its heart, this service is grounded in the Eucharist. We are blessed with this Sacred Presence in the reserve chapel at Sanctum, present here at the request of Cardinal Thomas Collins, who consecrated the grounds and celebrated a first Mass here at the Centre at its opening.”

“Sanctum Retreat truly is an ecumenical and inter-religious retreat serving people of all stripes and walks of life, as we are equal before God,” Kristoph reflects. “We are all God’s children. When we serve one another, we serve God.”

Endorsements on the Centre’s Web site,, include, in addition to that by Catholic Diocese of Calgary Bishop Fred Henry, words of gratitude by Anglicans, Ukrainian Catholics, Orthodox, chaplains, environmentalists, educators, and individuals. Lutheran, United Church, Presbyterian, Evangelical and other Christian traditions have made use of the centre, as have Jewish and Buddhist groups.

Of the location and facilities, retreatant Fr. John Bartunek LC, religious news commentator and author of The Better Part: A Christ- Centered Resource for Personal Prayer, has said:

“My favourite things about Sanctum are the beautiful natural setting, and also the atmosphere of silence that is created by the host, who takes care of all the details, and even the way the buildings are arranged.”

But it’s the sense of Eucharistic Presence that pervades the Retreat that he singles out for special recognition: “Sanctum is very well named. It’s a holy place,” he says. “It’s a place where we can grow in holiness and really encounter God.”

Kristoph is grateful for this affirmation of the Sanctum vision. “The ancient art of spiritual guidance, which is practiced regularly on retreats, is often the channel to come face to face with the truth that wholeness and holiness are inextricably linked,” he says. “In other words, it is difficult to be at peace with God—and with one another across religious differences—without finding peace within ourselves.”

For more information on Sanctum Retreat, including a virtual tour of the facilities, please visit www. Happy 10th Anniversary, Sanctum.

Warren Harbeck, PhD is a religious studies scholar and writer. He publishes the weekly slice-of-life newspaper column Coffee with Warren in the Cochrane Eagle (www. He and his wife, Mary Anna, are members of St. Mary’s Parish in Cochrane.

Related Offices Ecumenical & Interreligious Affairs Office Carillon
Related Themes Ecumenical Inter-Religious

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