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Reconciling Evangelization and Dialogue Through Love of Neighbor

28 Pages Posted: 12 Nov 2008  

Amelia J. Uelmen

Fordham University School of Law


This Essay explains how the values of evangelization and dialogue - which many believe to be in irreconcilable conflict - are actually complimentary.

In Christianity, the mandate to evangelize is clear: "Go and make disciples of all nations," Jesus instructed, "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Mt 19-20).

Practically, however, many struggle to understand what this mandate means in a pluralistic society. Words like "conversion," "evangelization," and even "truth" make many uncomfortable. Isn't it arrogant and disrespectful to proclaim that my religion is better than someone else's, or to assert that another person needs to change? It almost seems like one would need to make a choice - evangelization or dialogue.

This Essay works to reconcile evangelization and dialogue by drawing out from the documents in Catholic social teaching the animating principle of both: love of neighbor. Illustrations of the reconciliation in practice include an international movement of politicians who build relationships of trust across the ideological divide in order to work together for the common good. The Essay concludes with reflections on how the reconciliation might play out in an effort to claim space for alternative perspectives in large law firm practice.

Keywords: proselytism, evangelization, dialogue, interreligious dialogue, division, divisiveness, religious arguments, religious lawyering, Pope Benedict, Regensburg, Muslims, Islam, Roman Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II, Igino Giordani, Focolare, Chiara Lubich, love of neighbor

Suggested Citation

Uelmen, Amelia J., Reconciling Evangelization and Dialogue Through Love of Neighbor. Villanova Law Review, Vol. 52, pp. 303-329, 2007; Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1299199. Available at SSRN:

Amelia Uelmen (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

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