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Catholicism and Interreligious Dialogue$
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James L. Heft

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199827879

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199827879.001.0001

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Catholicism and Confucianism

Catholicism and Confucianism

An Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Challenges

(p.169) 6 Catholicism and Confucianism
Catholicism and Interreligious Dialogue

Peter C. Phan

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the encounter between two systems of thought and ways of life whose fortunes in East Asia have been intertwined for more than four centuries and whose future prospects seem to be indissolubly wedded to each other. This task is complicated by the fact that there is a deep uncertainty about the identity of one of these two partners-in-dialogue. While there is a broad agreement as to what is meant by “Catholicism,” there are sharp differences of opinion regarding “Confucianism.” It has been seriously and extensively debated, for example, whether Confucianism is a religion at all or whether it is merely a philosophical anthropology or an ethical system or a sociopolitical theory, and even whether “Confucianism” itself is, historically speaking, a Western invention. The chapter begins with a bird’s-eye view of the basic teachings of Confucius and the main developments of Confucianism. It then gives an account of the encounter between Confucianism and Roman Catholicism in East Asia, mainly in China, from the 16th century to the present. It concludes with reflections on some of the most important issues confronting an intercultural and interreligious dialogue between Confucianism and Roman Catholicism.

Keywords:   Catholicism, Confucianism, interreligious dialogue, ethical system, China

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