Q : 
I live in a senior housing complex. They’re planning to form a Bible study group, and it will be led by a Protestant. They say everyone can join, including Catholics, protestants and others. I would like to ask whether I can or whether I should not join such a group. Thanks.
【 Question from 】 Canada 加拿大

Fr. Francis : 

Catholics can certainly participate in prayer meetings and religious activities of other Christian denominations, including bible studies, provided that we are all striving toward mutual respect and dialogue. After all, it is Jesus’ prayer that we may all be one. The Church at the second Vatican Council has mandated that we must all take part working towards Christian unity, particularly finding opportunities to pray together and work together.

There are a few things we need to be mindful of when we participate in interdenominational events:
– stay respectful of their traditions and faithful to ours. Although the majority of what we believe is very much the same, there are also real and significant divergences. These could spark heated debates or even attempts to pressure the other to convert. A good practice is to not take things personally, tell others that you need to pray and investigate, and not get upset or get into protracted debates. Get to know your faith better through reading and consulting, then insist on respectful mutual dialogue. If the others continue to pressure or show a lack of respect for our Catholic beliefs, it’s time to leave.
– if others point out things about the Catholic Church that you are not sure of, be honest about what you don’t know, but offer to find out for them. If they are genuinely interested in finding the truth with you, this could lead to a great opportunity to build unity. If they are just interested in criticizing, tell them it is disrespectful and unwelcome. If it doesn’t improve, it’s time to leave.
– there is no need to agree with views that are different with our Catholic faith, especially when you are uncertain of the Church’s teachings on the matter. Doing so would not help them to understand our beliefs nor yourself to find the truth.
– the converse is the same: if you plan to participate, you must commit to love the people and learn about their traditions and beliefs. Respect their ways and celebrate our differences. Only then can we build trust, which opens the door to true mutual understanding and charity.
– if we participate in their Sunday worship service, we should not partake of their communion.
– their Sunday worship service does not fulfill our Sunday obligation. If we go there, we still need to attend Mass.