an important statement on Religion...and Faith and Faiths. See
particularly the next-to-final paragraph quoting Pope John Paul ll
encyclical entitled "Lumen Gentium". GS
ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
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
"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
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."
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
"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.
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.
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
"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
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
"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."
He quoted John Paul II, recalling that the formed Pontiff affirmed that
"other religions constitute a positive challenge for the Church of
"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
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