n the Book of Kings 1 19, There is a story about the prophet Elijah and it reads like this:
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Looking back at the Inter-Faith gatherings and all the work I became involved in, I can only say it came from ” a gentle whisper”.
And one day I received a call from the head of our Order in Canada. He is called “The Provincial Minister”. St Francis never wanted anyone to be a ‘superior’ and so he made sure that such a guy would have the title “Minister”, which means literally, “servant” or “one who serves”. From his telephone he called me to his office and there he told me that he was sending me to live in another house because he wanted me to do something.
“I know that you are going into Hindu and Bhuddist temples and all that on your own interest but now I want to confer a mandate on you to do it for the Order”. I asked him if he was thinking I could create some sort of intellectual gathering committee or other and if so, he should ask someone else. He looked at me and said,”No, that is why I have asked you. You will take the necessary time and think of how you want to do it. I will be calling to check with you and see where it is going. I will give you a written mandate for this work of creating dialogue with people of all faiths.”
So that was the essence of my mandate and my plan was to try and bring spiritual leaders of different faiths in Montreal together.
This was in the late fall of 1986 and I had just witnessed what Pope J.Paul had done in Assisi by inviting leaders of different religions and Traditions to come together for a day of fasting and prayers for peace. (Antonio M. Rosales, O.F.M., a Franciscan friar from the Philippine province, is living and working in Rome as the ecclesiastical assistant and attaché at the Embassy of the Philippines to the Holy See. Father Antonio attended the October 27, 1986 event at Assisi as the representative of the ambassador). Please read what he wrote:(http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Assisi/PeaceCapital.asp)
I watched the news of this event on TV, I read about it in the newspapers. I read articles about it. I could not get enough material. I wanted to know everything about it because for me it was such a definite sign of changing times. It was as if the Church had suddenly opened a window and a fresh breeze was blowing away the cobwebs and dust of the past.
Some 21 years prior to this, in October 28, 1965, that there was a Declaration “Nostra Aetate” (In Our Times) signed by Pope Paul in which it stated “….The Church therefore exhorts her children to recognize, preserve, and foster the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the sociocultural values found among the followers of other religions. This is done through dialogue and collaboration with them, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life.” (Nostra Aetate, Oct. 28th 1965, Rome)
After all these 21 years since this Declaration and finally a very outward and visible sign of that document was given by the initiative of Pope J.Paul. In this spirit, I wanted to collaborate in Montreal, and now I had the blessings of the Franciscan Order and I set out to prepare an event in this spirit.