Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Never before" has there been such a great need for formation in dialogue with Muslims, "because the most effective antidote against any form of violence is education to the discovery and acceptance of difference as a source of wealth and fertility". This requires an attitude of "listening" to be able to understand the values of which the other is a carrier and therefore "appropriate formation so that, firm in our own identity, we can grow in mutual understanding", but this also demands that "we do not fall into the snares of a conciliatory syncretism which, in the end, is empty and a harbinger of a totalitarianism without values".
These are the
characteristics of dialogue with Muslims, outlined today by Pope Francis in his
address to the participants in the meeting promoted by the Pontifical Institute
of Arab and Islamic Studies (PISAI) to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening
of 'Institute on the topic: Studying and understanding the religion of the
"In the last few years - the Pope said - despite some misunderstandings and difficulties, there have been advances in interreligious dialogue, also with the faithful of Islam. Listening is essential for this exercise. It is not only a necessary condition in a process of mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence, but it is also a pedagogical duty in order to "acknowledge the values of others, appreciate the concerns underlying their demands and shed light on shared belief" (Apostolic . ap. Evangelii gaudium, 253). At the base of all this there is the need to ensure adequate training, firm in their identity, we can grow in mutual understanding".
"We must be careful not to fall prey to conciliatory
syncretism which, in the end, is empty and a harbinger of a totalitarianism
without values (ibid., 251; 253). A
diplomatic openness which says "yes" to everything in order to avoid problems,
for this would be a way of deceiving others and denying them the good which we
have been given to share generously with others"(ibid.). This invites us, first, to return
to the fundamentals. "
"When we come to a person who professes belief in his religion, his testimony and his thinking challenge us and lead us to question ourselves about our own spirituality. At the beginning of dialogue is, therefore, encounter. From it we generate our initial knowledge of the other. If, in fact, it is assumed that we all belong to human nature, you can overcome prejudice and falsehood and you can begin to understand the other according to a new perspective".
"The history of the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies moves in this direction. It does not just accept what is being said on the surface, giving rise to stereotypes and preconceptions. The academic work, the result of daily effort, goes to investigate the sources , to fill the gaps, to analyze the etymology, to propose a hermeneutics of dialogue and, through a scientific approach inspired by wonder and amazement, is able to not lose the compass of mutual respect and mutual esteem. With this background , you gently move closer to one another without raising dust that obscures the view. The fifty years of PISAI in Rome - after its birth and early developments in Tunisia, thanks to the great work of the Missionaries of Africa - shows how the universal Church, in the climate of post-conciliar renewal, has understood the impending need for an institution explicitly dedicated to the research and formation of dialogue with Muslims. Perhaps now more than ever we avert such a need, because the most effective antidote against any form of violence is education to the discovery and acceptance of difference as richness and fertility. "
"This task is not easy but is born and grows from a strong sense of responsibility. The Islamic-Christian dialogue, in particular, requires patience and humility that accompany a thorough study, since approximation and improvisation can be counterproductive or even cause discomfort and embarrassment. We need a long-term and continuous commitment so as not to be unprepared in different situations and in different contexts. For this reason it requires specific formation, which is not limited to 'sociological analysis, but has the characteristics of a journey between people belonging to religions which, although in different ways, refer to the spiritual fatherhood of Abraham. Culture and education are not secondary in a genuine process of rapprochement towards the other that respects each person, "his life, physical integrity, dignity and the rights flowing from it, his reputation, properties, ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his policies" (Message for the end of Ramadan, July 10, 2013).
This institute is of great value among academic institutions of the Holy See, and it needs to be even more widely known. My desire is to become more and more a point of reference for the formation of Christians who work in the field of interreligious dialogue"." On the happy occasion of this jubilee - the Pope concluded - I hope the PISAI community never betray the primary task of listening and dialogue, based on clear identity, passionate, patient and rigorous research of truth and beauty, scattered by the Creator in the heart of every man and woman and visible in every authentic religious expression".