Last night, Fr Frank Brennan SJ interviewed Mons Tomas Halik, one of Eastern Europe's leading philosophers and theologians, in the Oratory at Newman College, Melbourne. Nearly two hundred people sat hushed listening to this humble and honest man. Ordained a Catholic priest during the persecution of Eastern Europe in the latter part of the 20th Century, Tomas, a close friend of President Vaclav Havel, organised an immediate visit to Czechoslovalkia by Pope John Paul II, soon after the fall of the Berlin wall. Tomas spoke about his time of persecution as a time of purification which has led to a new dawn. In recent times, he has baptised more than one thousand people in his academic parish in Prague. Tomas insists 'dialogue is the basis of the Christian life'. For him 'evangelisation must be in the form of dialogue, otherwise it is indoctrination ... faith comes alive in dialogue'. Tomas stressed the importance of having an open Church. He compared St Peter's Basilica in Rome to the former Jewish temples with their sanctuaries (the actual Basilica of St Peters) and the vast open areas (St Peter's Square).
Mons Halik distinguished between the emphases on Church between the last two popes, Pope John Paul II stressing the open Church and Pope Benedict the minority Church.
In his recent and critically acclaimed book Patience with God, Tomas focuses on dialogue with non believers as being one of the best responses to the 'new' athiesm, stressing 'God is the context of our lives, we must be patient, we are a community of pilgrims'. This resonated well with his affection for the medieval universities where the community seeks truth through dialogue. It reminded him of the great Dominican motto 'Contemplata aliis tradere' or 'to hand on those things which have been contemplated'.
At the conclusion, Br Mark O'Connor thanked both Frank and Tomas for an outstanding dialogue.