Vatican City, 28 November 2013 (VIS) – The Catholic Church is conscious of the value of the promotion of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions. We are increasingly aware of its importance, both because the world has, in some ways, become 'smaller', and because the phenomenon of migration increases contact between people and communities of different traditions, cultures and religions. This fact calls to our Christian conscience and it is a challenge for the understanding of faith and for the real life … of many believers”.
With these words, Pope Francis welcomed the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, whose president is Cardinal Jean-Louis Taurant, which is dedicated to the theme “Members of different religious traditions in society”. The Holy Father referred to his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” to reaffirm that “an attitude of openness in truth and in love must characterise the dialogue with the followers of non-Christian religions, in spite of various obstacles and difficulties, especially forms of fundamentalism on both sides”.
In fact, “there is no lack, throughout the world, of contexts in which co-existence is difficult: often political or economic motives overlap with cultural and religious differences, exploiting misunderstandings and past mistakes: all this risks generating diffidence and fear. There is only one route to conquering this fear, and it is encounter, characterised by friendship and respect”.
“Dialogue does not mean renouncing one's own identity in approaching others”, explained Pope Francis, “nor does it mean accepting compromises on faith and Christian morality. On the contrary, 'true openness involves remaining steadfast in one's deepest convictions, clear and joyful in one's own identity', and therefore convinced that the encounter with persons different to ourselves may offer an opportunity for growth in brotherhood, enrichment and witness.” He adds, “Interreligious dialogue and evangelisation are not mutually exclusive, but rather nurture each other. We do not impose anything, we use no underhand strategies to attract the faithful, but rather evangelise with the joy and the simplicity in which we believe and which we experience. Indeed, an encounter in which each person sets aside his belief, pretending to renounce that which is most dear to him, would certainly not be an authentic relationship. This could be described as a false fraternity”.
Constructive dialogue between people of different religious traditions “also helps overcome another fear, which we unfortunately find in the most strongly secularised societies: the fear of the various religious traditions and of the religious dimension as such. … There is a widespread belief that co-existence would be possible only by concealing one's own religious identity, encountering one another in a sort of neutral space, without references to the transcendent. However, how is it possible to create true relations, to build a society that is an authentic communal home, imposing that its members set aside an intimate part of their being? Certainly, it is necessary that all this occurs with respect for the convictions of others, even those who do not believe, but we must have the courage and the patience to encounter and come towards each other as we are”.
“The future is in respectful co-existence in diversity”, concluded the Pope, “not in the uniformity of a single theoretically neutral thought. The recognition of the fundamental right to religious freedom, in all its dimensions, therefore becomes indispensable. In this regard, great efforts have been made to express the Magisterium of the Church during recent decades. We are convinced that this is the route to building peace in the world”.