Vatican City, 24 January 2015 (VIS) – “In recent years, despite various misunderstandings and difficulties, strides ahead have been made in interreligious dialogue, even with followers of Islam. Listening is essential for this. It is not only a necessary condition in a process of mutual comprehension and peaceful co-existence, but it is also a pedagogic duty in order to 'acknowledge the values of others, appreciate the concerns underlying their demands and shed light on shared beliefs'”, said Pope Francis this morning, as he received in audience the participants in a meeting organised by the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and lslamic Studies (PISAI), commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation. The meeting was held at the Pontifical Urbanian University from 22 to 24 January on the theme: “Studying and Understanding the Religion of the Other. Towards Mutual Recognition between Religions and Cultures in Today’s World”.
Francis emphasised the need for adequate education, “so that, secure in our own identity, we can grow in mutual knowledge. We must take care not to fall prey to a syncretism that is conciliatory but ultimately empty and a harbinger of a totalitarianism without values. A comfortable and accommodating approach, 'which says “yes” to everything in order to avoid problems', ends up being 'a way of deceiving others and denying them the good which we have been given to share generously with others'. This invites us, first of all, to return to the basics”.
“At the beginning of dialogue there is encounter”, he continued. “This generates the first knowledge of the other. If, indeed, we start from the presumption of our common human nature, it is possible to overcome prejudice and falsehood, and to begin to understand the other from a new perspective”. Francis remarked that now there is a need, like never before, for an institution dedicated expressly to research and the formation of dialogue with Muslims, since “the most effective antidote to any form of violence is education in the discovery and acceptance of difference as richness and fruitfulness”. This task, affirmed the Pope, is not easy, but “is born of and matures from a strong sense of responsibility”.
He continued, “Islamic-Christian dialogue, in a special way, requires patience and humility accompanied by detailed study, as approximation and improvisation can be counterproductive and or even the cause of unease and embarrassment. There is a need for lasting and continuous commitment in order to ensure we do not find ourselves unprepared in various situations and in different contexts. For this reason it demands a specific preparation, that is not limited to sociological analysis but rather has the characteristics of a journey shared by people belonging to religions that, although in different ways, refer to the spiritual fatherhood of Abraham. Culture and education are not secondary to a true process of moving towards each other that respects in every person “his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices”.
The Pope expressed his wish that this “valuable” Institute, may increasingly become “a point of reference for the formation of Christians who work in the field of interreligious dialogue” and that it may establish a fruitful collaboration with other Pontifical universities and research centres, both Christian and Muslim, throughout the world. He concluded by encouraging the community of the PISAI “never to betray the primary task of listening and dialogue, based on clear identities and the keen, patient and rigorous search for truth and beauty, which are placed in the hearts of every man and woman and truly visible in every authentic religious expression”.