Catholic Bishop John C. Wester urges interfaith love, understanding

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 18 2012 8:00 p.m. MDT

Catholic Bishop Wester greets UVU students following his presentation on interfaith Tuesday.

Joe Walker

OREM — Speaking to a group of nearly 1,000 young Mormons at Utah Valley University’s LDS Institute of Religion, the Most Reverend John C. Wester, Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City, said he believes “that we in Utah can be a model of how our faiths can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with one another in honoring each other’s traditions and in standing for good.”

“I believe that here in Utah, more than any other state, religions and faith are honored and respected,” Bishop Wester told the interfaith devotional audience, which included University President Matthew Holland, Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the LDS Church’s Presidency of the Seventy and Elder Steven Lund of the Seventy. “Although all of us occasionally struggle with how we relate to each other within the context of our frame of reference, what we’re doing here today is the kind of thing that will help us be open to the way God acts in our lives and in our different religions.”

The interfaith devotional, which was sponsored by the Orem Institute and the Latter-day Saint Student Association Interfaith Committee, was open to the entire university community, the vast majority of which are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bishop Wester said he saw it as “a wonderful sign of the ongoing collaboration and friendship” between Utah Catholics and Mormons, and an indication of “our mutual desire to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as we give witness to Jesus Christ as his disciples.”

“At a time when there are so many who are at odds with each other over religion, what we are doing here today is extremely important in my view,” Bishop Wester said. “Learning about each other — how we are different, and how we are alike — is an important step that must be taken before the marathon of interfaith relations can be run.”

And that is precisely what Bishop Wester did for most of the time allotted to him during the devotional. He introduced his mostly Mormon audience to the Catholic Church, giving them a glimpse of what it means to be Catholic even though, he said, “it is difficult to summarize my faith.”

“The fundamental principle of Catholic belief is that we are created to be one with God forever,” Bishop Wester said. “The whole thrust of life is to move into God’s heavenly kingdom. We must never lose sight of that priority.”

Catholics, he said, are called upon to live their beliefs.

“We have a moral imperative to live out the faith,” he continued. “There is an ethic, a moral responsibility, a way of living as a Catholic, that is rooted in scripture, and rooted in Jesus Christ.”

Therefore, he said, “each Catholic is called to be holy.”

He also spoke about Catholic sacraments and saints, and the church’s profound efforts to protect religious freedom around the world.

“There are some who would cleverly, in my view, switch that language to ‘freedom of worship,’ so it sounds pretty much like ‘religious freedom,’” he said. “But that language relegates us to our temples and our churches. It says, ‘You can worship however you want, but stay out of our lives. We’ve gone beyond you. We don’t need you.’ That’s the message that I perceive.

“Our contention,” he continued, “is this country is founded on religious freedom, and everybody has the right to speak in the public square. We can say that for us, marriage is sacred, and that we believe marriage is between a man and a woman. That is something we proclaim. There are many in our society who choose not to believe that, but we reserve the right to proclaim it.”

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