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Pope Benedict has been “misinterpreted” on interfaith dialogue

Interreligious discussions do not mean questioning one’s own faith, states Vatican


The Vatican has said that a statement by Pope Benedict XVI on the “impossibility”
of religious dialogue has been misinterpreted, and does “not put in
doubt the Pope’s inter-religious commitment.”

In a preface to a book by Marcello Pera, a centre-Right Italian senator,
entitled Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians, the Pope says the
book “explains clearly that an inter-religious dialogue in the strict
sense of the word is not possible.” He adds that “real dialogue”
on religious choices is not possible “without putting one’s faith in

However it is “necessary to face, in a public dialogue, the cultural
consequences of fundamental religious choices.” Such a cultural
dialogue involved “mutual correction and enrichment and was “both
possible and necessary,” Pope Benedict wrote.

Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said what the Pope meant was
that inter-faith dialogue “does not mean questioning one’s own faith.
It deals with the many other aspects that come from one’s personal beliefs,
cultural and historical, and their consequences.”

He said that far from discouraging or opposing dialogue between faiths the
Pope was arguing that it should and must be pursued, “even though it is
impossible on strictly religious issues.” Father Lombardi noted that
since he became Pope three years ago Pope Benedict had visited synagogues in
Germany and the United States and a mosque in Turkey.

The chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, said he agreed with the Pope that
there were “insurmountable limits” to interfaith dialogue. However
it remained unclear where the defining line lay between “religious
dialogue” and “cultural dialogue”.

Italian Muslim leaders also said they agreed with the Pope that the dialogue
between faiths was a dialogue on on “coexistence in diversity”,
but that the Pope’s remarks needed “clarifying”. The Vatican
recently hosted the first Catholic-Muslim forum, attended by Muslim and
Catholic scholars and officials.

However earlier this month Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical
Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, said there were now too many
initiatives to improve relations between Christians and Muslims, which
risked “overlapping and creating confusion”.

Four years ago, when Pope Benedict was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and
head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he published a study
of Europe’s identity crisis in collaboration with Senator Pera under the
title Without Roots: Europe, Relativism, Christianity, Islam.