09/16/2006, 00.00
INDIA

Card.Toppo: "Face Islamic protests with truth, courage and prayer"

by Nirmala Carvalho

The president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India has told AsiaNews that the recent protests against the speech of Benedict XVI in Regensburg are a great gift to the Church, to be used at this historic moment in time to launch serious and lasting inter-faith dialogue.

Ranchi (AsiaNews) – The Christian community in India must face Muslim protests against the Pope's address "with Christian courage and prayer because truth needs no other defence". This was the thrust of a statement given to AsiaNews by Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India.

We publish the text of the statement in full:

"These protests by our Muslim brothers, which started yesterday after Friday prayers, are misplaced as the Pope has not commented on Islam; he only quoted a Byzantine emperor and another great Persian scholar. I have read the text of Benedict XVI, it is an eight-page speech and what has sparked all this is just one quotation extrapolated from the context.

The crowds that have taken to the streets of India are probably reacting to articles in local newspapers about the speech of the pope, where some of his phrases have been quoted out of context.

This is also symbolic of the situation today: without even contextually situating the text, or dwelling on its meaning, some people have taken the quotation as a cue to take to the streets in protests.

This is the time for all Christians to be patient and pray for those who do not understand. The situation which comes at this point in time is also a great gift for the church - for us to engage in serious and lasting dialogue with our brothers and sisters of different faiths. A true culture of tolerance is possible only in a dialogue of religious identities.

The Holy Father was quoting from history and he was trying to show us a way through faith and reason in today's terrorist ridden society. These reactions are indicative of what the Pope was trying to emphasize – only reason and enlightenment through faith bring about mutual respect and peace.

I am not saddened by these protests: we have to face them with Christian courage and prayer because truth needs no defence.

The teachings of any religions preach justice, peace and brotherhood. These elements bring about unity in humankind, if applied and a qualitative change in people's lives.

Truth, beauty and unity reside in the heart of man who seeks and professes authentic religion.

Benedict XVI was making a very clear emphasis, that violence is not compatible with the nature of God. Violence and killing is contrary to the nature of the Divine. He was very clear that God is love and love ensures and brings forth life. God is life-giving. That is the fundamental reason why such a respected and highly-acclaimed theologian like the pope gave such a clear message in his first encyclical - Deus Caritas Est.

The pope was speaking in a university, where he chose to repeat that the religious dimension is necessary for all men, and that faith is fundamental to experience fullness of life.

The coldness of rationality often yields to a desacralised life – this is what he was trying to say."

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