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Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Vatican City, 20 March 2012 (VIS) - A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present the arrival in Palermo of the "Courtyard of the Gentiles", an initiative of the Pontifical Council for Culture which has the aim of promoting dialogue between believers and non-believers on the great issues facing the modern world. The event will take place in Palermo, Italy, on 29 and 30 March and have as its theme "The Culture of Legality and Multi-Religious Society".

Participating in today's press conference were Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Bishop Antonino Raspanti of Acireale; Bishop Carmelo Cuttitta, auxiliary and vicar general of Palermo; Giusto Sciacchitano, anti-Mafia prosecutor, and Fr. Jean-Marie Laurent Mazas F.S.J., executive director of the Courtyard of the Gentiles.

Following Bologna, Paris, Bucharest, Florence, Rome and Tirana, the Courtyard of the Gentiles is moving to Sicily where, according to a note released by the Holy See Press Office, believers and non believers face "a crucial challenge: responding with a culture of dialogue and legality, rooted in the great multi-religious and multi-cultural tradition of Sicily, to the non-culture of organised crime, and opening bridges of dialogue with the reawakening which is stirring Arab society on the south-eastern shore of the Mediterranean. Palermo is the ideal place to do this, because of its dual nature as the historical meeting point of cultures and religions, and as the original 'cradle' of the Mafia while at the same time being symbolic of the struggle against the Mafia (it was there that the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime was signed in 2000).

The event will begin in the cathedral of Monreale on 29 March with a talk by Cardinal Ravasi on "Society, Culture and Faith". "The presence of the 'Courtyard' in Sicily", Cardinal Ravasi has declared, "is an expression of the desire to officially relaunch the Church’s commitment against illegality and any degeneration of the law". On 30 March the "Courtyard" will move on to the University of Palermo where philosophers, religious, jurists, historians and intellectuals will discuss "divine law and human justice", "religion and human rights", "pluralism and universalism" and "religions and public space". Speakers will include Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the philosopher Remi Brague and the historian of the Mafia Salvatore Lupo. That evening in the cathedral of Palermo, Cardinal Ravasi, anti-Mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso, young people of the anti-Mafia association "Addiopizzo" and Cardinal Paolo Romeo, archbishop of Palermo will participate in an open meeting with citizens of Sicily to reaffirm the popular and everyday character of the commitment to dialogue and legality.

Other aspects of the initiative include a "Narrative Courtyard" for university students, to be held on 29 March in the Palermo branch of LUMSA University, and a "Courtyard of Children" for local boys and girls, to be held in front of Palermo cathedral on the evening of 30 March.

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