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Cardinal Tauran: We Shouldn’t Fear Islam

Says Interreligious Dialogue Can Deepen Faith

GRANADA, Spain, FEB. 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).-
The president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is
affirming that Catholics should not fear Islam, but rather welcome the
chance for deepening their faith through interchange with Muslims.

Cardinal
Jean-Louis Tauran affirmed this in Granada during his Feb. 10 opening
address for a two-day congress sponsored by the Faculty of Theology of
Granada. The congress was titled “Christianity, Islam and Modernity.”

“We
must not fear Islam,” the prelate affirmed, “but I would say more:
Christians and Muslims, when they profess their own faith with
integrity and credibility, when they dialogue and make an effort to
serve society, constitute a richness for the latter.”

He
pointed out that “in these five years, the climate of dialogue with
Muslims has improved, although contrasting elements still remain.”
Islam is the religion with which the council maintains the most
structured relations.

Among these differences, the cardinal
mentioned discrimination of women and freedom of worship, which is
absolutely denied in Saudi Arabia.

Cardinal Tauran said that
each one of us must address a “triple challenge: that of identity — to
have a clear idea of the content of our faith; that of difference –
knowing that the other is not necessarily an enemy; and that of
pluralism — acknowledging that God is working mysteriously in each one
of his creatures.”

Community

He affirmed that “for a Westerner, Islam is difficult to understand.”
 
“It
is at the same time a religion, a society and a state,” the prelate
explained, “which brings together 1.2 billion people in one great
worldwide entity, the ‘ummah’.”
 
“The members of this community
practice the same rites, have the same vision of the world and adopt
the same conduct,” he noted. “Moreover, they do not distinguish between
the private and public sphere.”

“This religious visibility disturbs secularized societies,” the cardinal added.
 
“However,” he said, “the new fact is that in the Western world, Muslims and non-Muslims are obliged to live together.”

“In Europe, for example, we live with third-generation Muslims,” Cardinal Tauran pointed out.
 
He
observed that “we find Muslims in everyday life,” which “does not
impede Christians and Muslims many times being victims of prejudice,
consequence of ignorance.”
 
“It often happens that a Christian has never spoken with a Muslim, and vice versa,” he added.

Overcoming fear
 
The
council president affirmed that “dialogue alone allows us to overcome
fear, because it allows each one to experience the discovery of the
other and to bring about a meeting, and this meeting is precisely what
the interreligious dialogue is about in reality.”
 
This happens
“because it is not two religions that meet, but rather men and women
that the vicissitudes of life, the circumstances, favorable or
unfavorable, have made companions in humanity,” he added.
 
The
cardinal stressed the need to “make an effort, on both sides, to know
the religious traditions of the other, to acknowledge what separates us
and what brings us close and to collaborate for the common good,” which
“is no easy task.”
 
It calls for “interior liberty that gives
place to an attitude full of respect for the other: to be able to be
silent so as to listen to the other, to give him the opportunity to
express himself with all freedom, and not hide or sweeten one’s own
spiritual identity,” he said.
 
The prelate continued, “Once
trust is established, both sides will be able to examine freely what
separates us and what unites us.”
 
In regard to the differences
between Christians and Muslims, the cardinal explained that we are
separated by “our relation with the sacred books, the concept of
revelation — Christianity is not a ‘religion of the book’ — the
identity of Jesus and of Mohammed, the Trinity, the use of reason, the
conception of prayer.”
 
On the other hand, he affirmed that the
two religions hold several things in common: “the oneness of God, the
sacredness of life, the conviction that we must transmit moral values
to young people, the value of the family for the emotional and moral
growth of children and the importance of religion in education.”
 
Cardinal
Tauran affirmed that “we, Catholics, are guided and animated by the
luminous teaching of Benedict XVI, who has made interreligious dialogue
one of the priorities of his pontificate.” He referred, for example, to
the Holy Father’s interventions in Cologne, Germany, the United States,
France and the Holy Land.

Advances
 
The council
president affirmed that his dicastery has been building relations with
Islam, and since 1976 meetings have been held every two years with the
World Islamic Call Society of Libya.
 
Moreover, in 1995, the
Comite de Liaison Islamo-Catholique was created and, since 1998, there
has been a mixed committee for dialogue between the dicastery and
Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, which meets every year.
 
The
council also collaborates with the Royal Institute for Inter-faith
Studies of Amman, Jordan, the Islamic Culture and Relations
Organization of Tehran, Iran and the Catholic-Muslim Forum, created in
2008.
 
“Thanks to these human and spiritual contacts,”
Cardinal Tauran pointed out that there have been several achievements
such as an interreligious conference held in July, 2008 in Madrid. It
took place at the invitation of the king of Saudi Arabia, and
participants made unanimous affirmations on common values.
 
The
prelate also recalled the first seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum,
held in the Vatican in November 2008. Representatives of the 138 Muslim
leaders who signed an open letter to their Christian counterparts
participated in this seminar.
 
He listed among the recent
advances the interreligious meeting organized last May by the Royal
Institute for Inter-faith Studies in Jordan on the theme “Religion and
Civil Society.”
 
This meeting “enabled Christian and Muslim
participants to state that religious liberty can be adequately
exercised only in a democratic society,” the cardinal noted.
 
He
added that all this represents progress, although “the great problem
for me is to know how to effect it so that this change will reach the
base.”

Ignorance
 
Cardinal Tauran pointed out that
pastors of the Catholic Church and professors of Catholic schools and
universities still rarely take into account this new context of
religious pluralism.
 
He also lamented that “European Catholics have a very weak knowledge of their faith.”
 
“Genuine
interreligious dialogue cannot be established in ambiguity or when the
interlocutors do not have a defined spiritual profile,” the prelate
asserted. “Thus relativism and syncretism are born.”
 
He noted
that “thanks to Islam, or better said, to Muslims who live with us, we
are called to deepen our faith and to renew our catechesis.”
 
The
cardinal explained that “to engage in interreligious dialogue is not to
put our own faith in brackets but, on the contrary, to proclaim it with
words and behavior.”
 
“We proclaim that Jesus is the Light that
illumines all men who live in this world,” he continued. “Hence, all
the positive aspects that exist in religions are not darkness, but
participate in this great Light which shines above all lights.”

In
the Church, Cardinal Tauran stated, “we do not say that all religions
have the same value, but that all those that seek God have the same
dignity.”

Challenge

He quoted John Paul II, recalling
that the formed Pontiff affirmed that “other religions constitute a
positive challenge for the Church of today.”

“In fact, they
lead her to discover and recognize the signs of the presence of Christ
and of the action of the Holy Spirit, and also to deepen her identity
and to witness the integrity of revelation, of which she is trustee for
the good of all,” the prelate affirmed.

He said that
“‘Dominus Iesus’ reminds us that we must keep two truths together: the
possibility, for all men, to be saved by Christ, and the necessity of
the Church for salvation.”

“For those who do not belong to the
Church, Christ is accessible in virtue of a grace that illumines them
mysteriously and that comes from Christ,” the cardinal said.

He
pointed out that “Lumen Gentium” affirms that “those who without fault
are ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and his Church but yet seek God
sincerely and, with the help of grace, make an effort with their works
to fulfill his will, known through the dictate of conscience, can
obtain eternal salvation.”

The cardinal affirmed that truth
is proposed and not imposed, and “interreligious dialogue and the
proclamation of Christ are not interchangeable.”

Other
participants in the congress included Archbishop Javier Martínez of
Granada and Bishop Adolfo González Montes of Almeria, Spain, who
delivered a lecture entitled “Christianity, Enlightenment, Laicism:
Reason and Faith Before Transcendent Revelation.”

© Innovative Media, Inc.

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