11/12/2013, 00.00
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Fifty years of Catholic Church dialogue with other religions

A volume presented this morning in the Vatican contains a collection of Council texts, encyclicals, apostolic exhortations and addresses by popes from John XXIII to Benedict XVI, which, as Francis said at the start of his pontificate, show that"The Catholic Church is conscious of the importance of promoting friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions".

Vatican City ( AsiaNews) - "The Catholic Church is conscious of the importance of promoting friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions," said Pope Francis at the beginning of his pontificate to the representatives of the Churches and ecclesial communities and other religions, words that highlight the importance the Catholic Church, especially after the Second Vatican Council, places in the dialogue with believers of other faiths, something that Francis had already indicated in early August by personally signing the Church's annual message of greetings to the Muslim community as it celebrated the end of Ramadan.

The texts and documents of this "dialogue of friendship", a goal pursued by the past six pontificates starting with John XXIII, have been put together in a single volume, and presented this morning at a press conference held at the Holy See Press Office.

The one 2,100-page tome titled Interreligious Dialogue in the Official Teaching of the Catholic Church (1963-2013 (in Italian) contains a collection of Council texts, encyclicals, apostolic exhortations and addresses from John XXIII to Benedict XVI. There are also some papers from the dicasteries of the Roman Curia regarding interreligious dialogue.

In total, the 909 documents include 7 Council texts, 2 by John XXIII, 97 by Paul VI, 2 by John Paul I, 591 by John Paul II, 188 by Benedict XVI, 15 from the Roman Curia, 3 legislative texts, and 4 from the International Theological Commission.

As Card Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, noted, the book, now in its third edition, contains the 188 texts Benedict XVI devoted to interreligious dialogue in his seven years as pope.  For Benedict XVI as for his predecessors, religious freedom was a sacred and inalienable right, and he lost no opportunity to reiterate it."

"Convinced that to deny or arbitrarily restrict religious freedom means cultivating a reductive vision of the human person, making it impossible to establish a genuine and lasting peace of the whole human family (Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 2011, n.1.4.), Benedict XVI noted that the ongoing process of world globalisation was a good opportunity to promote relations of universal brotherhood among human beings."

Fr Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, M.C.C.J., secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, briefly listed the contents of the book, starting with John XXIII, who in his opening address at the Second Vatican Council (11 October 1962) called "for the promotion of the 'unity in esteem and respect for the Catholic Church which animates those who follow non-Christian religions," and not limit it to the unity in the Christian and human family, the unity of Catholics, and unity with Christians not yet in full communion (Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, n. 8.2.)'."

"In the Encyclical Pacem in Terris (11 April 1963), John XXIII warned, "It is always perfectly justifiable to distinguish between error as such and the person who falls into error-even in the case of men who err regarding the truth or are led astray as a result of their inadequate knowledge, in matters either of religion or of the highest ethical standards. A man who has fallen into error does not cease to be a man. He never forfeits his personal dignity; and that is something that must always be taken into account (n. 158)'."

"Paul VI, in his Ecclesiam Suam (6 August 1964), expressed his profound conviction that 'The Church must enter into dialogue with the world in which it lives. It has something to say, a message to give, a communication to make" (n. 67).

"John Paul I, in spite of the brevity of his 33-day pontificate, followed the same path as his predecessor, 'calling all to collaborate in creating a bulwark, within nations, against blind violence and to promote improvement in the conditions of less fortunate populations'."

"John Paul II developed the 'culture of dialogue'. It would be impossible to list here all the meetings that marked his pontificate." However, "I would like to remember that, in 1986, he met followers of all the world's religions for a Day of Prayer in Assisi." Similarly, "in 2002, following the dramatic events of 11 September 2001 and their tragic consequences in the Middle and Near East, he proposed a Decalogue for peace to the Heads of State and representatives of the governments of the world."

"On the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Council, Benedict XVI reiterated that in order to find the true spirit of Vatican II, we must return to its 'letter', that is, its texts. Two statements - Nostra Aetate (28 October 1965) and Dignitatis Humanae (December 6, 1965) - underscore the openness of the Church."

"In the first one, now considered the 'Magna Charta of dialogue', there is the recognition that all religious traditions have something good. The second insists on freedom, which belongs to every human being, to follow one's own conscience in the sphere of religion. In fifty years, significant steps have been taken towards the goals laid down by the Second Vatican Council and the last five popes, steps that have been documented in this volume."

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