Representatives of the World Sikh Council ? America Region (WSC-AR) and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) met May 29-31, 2009 at St. Therese?s Retreat Center in Columbus, Ohio for a three-day Sikh-Catholic bilateral national interreligious retreat.
The objective of the retreat was for the Sikh and Catholic communities to further deepen dialogue and trust among the two communities. The theme was ?The Nature of God: Convergences, Divergences, and Our Spiritual Paths.?
The Sikh and Catholic delegations were comprised of about 8 representatives from each community with about one third of the participants being young adults (age 35 and younger).
The Catholic delegation was headed by Rev. Canon Francis Tiso, Associate Director of USCCB?s Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. The Sikh delegation was led by Dr. Tarunjit Singh, Chair of the Interfaith Committee of WSC-AR.
The retreat began on Friday, May 29, with a presentation on the Catholic belief in God by Rev. Francis Tiso and Father Philip Simo. The next day, Mr. Kuldeep Singh, founding former Chairperson of WSC-AR, shared an overview of the concept of God in the Sikh faith. This was followed by presentation by young adults Mr. Neil Sloan (Catholic) and Mr. Savraj Singh (Sikh) on how each faith honors God in everyday life. Sikhs and Catholics prayed together from their faiths during the retreat. The Interfaith Association of Central Ohio hosted a mutifaith dinner on Saturday evening in honor of the Sikh-Catholic bilateral dialogue. On Sunday morning, the Sikh and Catholic young adults led in a shared worship service.
?Sikhs believe that God cannot be divided into more than one,? he said. ?But as Catholics do, we too believe God is everywhere, in everything, without beginning or end, is merciful and forgiving, so we have all this in common? said Mr. Kuldeep Singh.
?We found that both of our faith traditions have a similar sort of caution talking about God ? the idea that words can?t fully express his nature, that ?God is greater than ? .? This is one thing the discussion brought out in a number of insightful moments. ?We are both monotheistic religions, sharing that in common with the Muslim and Jewish traditions, Sikhs and Catholics both believe in the transcendence and the eternal nature of God,? said Rev. Francis Tiso.Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/sikh-news/25363-third-us-sikh-catholic-dialogue-retreat.html
?We have formed bonds of friendship and of respect for each other and for the words and traditions that have great meaning to both of our faiths, and this is at the beating heart of this dialogue,? said Dr. Tarunjit Singh.
The Sikh-Catholic interreligious dialogue began in May 2006 with a meeting hosted by Religions for Peace ? USA at the Church Center for the UN in New York city. This was followed by a retreat in October 2006 in Huntington, NY on the theme
?Divinity, Humanity, and Creation.? The second retreat was held in September 2007 on the theme of ?Honoring Holiness In and Out of Our Faiths.? In April of 2008, WSC-AR representatives declined to attend an interreligious meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Washington, DC because the US Secret Service refused to accommodate the Sikh religious requirement of wearing the Kirpaan.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is an assembly of the Catholic Church hierarchy of the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands who jointly exercise certain pastoral functions on behalf of the Christian faithful of the United States. The purpose of the Conference is to promote the greater good which the Church offers humankind, especially through forms and programs of the apostolate fittingly adapted to the circumstances of time and place. This purpose is drawn from the universal law of the Church and applies to the episcopal conferences which are established all over the world for the same purpose.Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/showthread.php?t=25363
The World Sikh Council ? America Region (WSC-AR) is a representative and elected body of Sikh Gurdwaras and institutions in the United States. Its members include 45 Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) and other Sikh institutions across the nation. WSC-AR works to promote Sikh interests at the national and international level focusing on issues of advocacy, education, and well-being of humankind.