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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher at the Council of Europe: the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue

Vatican City, 9 June 2015 (VIS) – Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States, spoke at the seminar “Building inclusive societies together: contributions to Sarajevo's exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue” on 8 June at the Council of Europe, in preparation for the 2015 Meeting on this issue to be held in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 8 to 9 September.

The archbishop structured his discussion according to four main theses: in the context of growing multipolarity, religions are an essential subject/actor in the area of intercultural dialogue; religions are called to offer a specific contribution to the advancement of a culture of human rights; religious freedom is a key element in the development of a democratic society; and the promotion and protection of the right to religious freedom is a basic task of states and international organisations.

“Open and respectful encounters between religious traditions and between these and the social and political world are fundamental for social cohesion”, he said. “The religious dimension continues to be a living reference point for millions of people in Europe, affecting their choices and, to a greater or lesser degree, their identity. It is a dimension which is in continuous transformation, due to new religious forms of life and profound changes experienced within religious communities that have long been present in Europe. ... For intercultural dialogue to bear fruit, it must face not only the religious dimension in general, but also interact with particular religious confessions with all their historic characteristics”.

“Without the particular contribution given by religious perspectives on the human person, … the entire culture of human rights, even those of non-believers, would be greatly impoverished. I cannot claim to speak in the name of other religious cultures; but I believe that the specific contribution of the Catholic Church to a common culture of human rights may be seen in concrete ways and I will limit myself to offering a few examples, which are by no means exhaustive. First of all, there is the awareness of a radical equality and fraternity between every human person created in the image and likeness of God. Secondly, the recognition of the worth of the least among us, of the poor and the marginalised, of the dignity of every human life no matter how weak or precarious, from conception through natural death. Thirdly, the capacity to transmit a religious identity which is both firm and respectful of others, open to dialogue with other religions and world views. As can easily be seen, these are universal values, and while they are not exclusive to the Catholic Faith, the latter has offered and continues to offer a unique contribution. Every religious tradition can and must make its own particular contribution, even when it becomes important to find a way to relate honestly to one another, embracing the good that exists in all traditions and also inviting sincere discussion on the perceived limitations of every tradition of thought, be it religious or not”.

“In today’s context of multicultural societies, respect for religious freedom is one of the fundamental factors by which the health of a given democracy can be evaluated as being truly a home for everyone. Promoting religious freedom appears particularly important in averting and countering the phenomena of extremist violence and radicalisation, against which governments and international organisations are currently engaged, among them the Council of Europe”.

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