Canadian journal opens new dialogue on faith's public role

.- Two Canadian Catholics – one priest and one layman – have launched a new journal aimed at starting an intellectual dialogue on the public role of religion in their country.

The new publication “Convivium” kicked off the discussion with its introductory October 2011 volume.

“The Convivium project is 'really all about God,'” the non-denominational magazine's Catholic publisher Peter Stockland writes in his introductory letter to the first issue.

“But borrowing further from Pope Benedict's World Communications Day message, it is also about linking God in the real world 'to the real faces of our brothers and sisters, those with whom we share our daily lives.'”

“Our objective is to address matters and present writing of a standard that communicates the need for reflection, debate and engagement,” writes Stockland. He aims not for a mass audience, but for  “a robust and enriched community of readers” seeking thoughtful commentary on faith and society.

Joining Stockland in the endeavor, sponsored by the Cardus Centre for Cultural Renewal, is Editor-in-Chief Father Raymond de Souza. A parish priest and Queen's University economics professor, Fr. de Souza has written for publications including Canada's National Post and the National Catholic Register.

The magazine represents one part of a larger project that will include public lectures, seminars, and other meetings meant to strengthen religious believers' public presence.

The Cardus Centre wants the Convivium Project – in its literary, electronic, and offline dimensions – to be a “community that that connects citizens committed to the renewal of Canadian culture and our common life.”

Convivium's first issue features National Post religion reporter Charles Lewis' thoughts on faith and journalism, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Predergast's reflections on the upcoming new Mass translation, New Democrat MP Bill Blaikie's outlook on the “religious Left,” and a feature on “The Torments of China's Religious Believers” of various traditions.

Along with his “Small Talk” column offering notes on a range of news items, Fr. de Souza writes a “continuing survey” of cultural trends in his “From Sea to Sea” section. Its first installment includes discussions of Canadian Catholic convert and intellectual Marshall McLuhan, and the career of late New Democratic leader Jack Layton.

In an interview published in Convivium's inaugural issue, Cardus Centre president Michael Van Pelt says his Christian think-tank wants to “target a public intellectual community in Canada that has the ability and the desires to discuss topics that range from politics to religion to culture.”

“That public intellectual dialogue isn't happening in Canada,” Van Pelt says.

He believes the project of changing Canada's culture for the better requires serious thought and sustained discussion.

“Actions, whether good or evil, are very rarely rooted in a spontaneous idea,” Van Pelt observes in the interview. “Most often they're rooted in ideas that have been bandied about and talked about for many, many years.”

“Poetry is written about them. They inspire all kinds of art and other cultural forms. Debates range in the pub over them. And then suddenly they're done. But the conversation came first.”

“We want Convivium to be a place where that conversation takes place in Canada.”

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