Vatican City (Fides Service) - “In the past forty years your Council has carried out its ecclesial service with zeal and commitment, encountering response and fruitful convergence in many dioceses and also in Christian Churches and communities of different denominations. The importance of your work has also been recognised by no small number of organisations of other religions which have had and continue to have profitable contact with the Pontifical Council and share with you various initiatives of dialogue. This fruitful cooperation must be intensified, directing attention to themes of common interest.” This was how Pope John Paul II encouraged participants in the annual assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue whom he received in audience on 15 May.
This year the Council is marking the 40th anniversary of its institution on 19 May 1964, as the Pope recalled: “ The decision taken by my venerable predecessor, the servant of God Paul VI, stemmed - as he himself said - from the atmosphere of unity and expectation which marked the Second Vatican Council. From the Council, and above all from the Declaration Nostra Aetate, the new office received guidelines for its activity to promote relations with people of other religions.” Looking to the future, the Holy Father said “The years to come will see the Church ever more committed to meeting the great challenge of interreligious dialogue”. Dialogue “is important and it must continue since it is ‘part of the Church’s evangelising mission’... However while promoting dialogue with believers of other religions, all religious relativism and indifferentism must be avoided, and every effort must be made to offer with respect to all joyful witness of the ‘hope we nourish’”.
The Holy Father also mentioned the role of dialogue in building peace: “Christians know they can help to build peace in the world by letting themselves be animated by love for all people and every individual searching with courage for the truth cultivating an authentic thirst for justice and freedom. These efforts must always be accompanied by persevering, humble and confident prayer to God. Peace in fact is a divine gift to be prayer for without tiring.”
The Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue opened on 14 May and will reflect on various themes: theological reflection on religious pluralism, bilateral experience of dialogue, multi-religious initiatives... As usual the participants will also listen to a report on the past year’s activity and future programmes in various sectors: Asia, Africa, Latin America, Islam, Sects, religious movements...
In the afternoon of the final Day May 19 at the Pontifical Urban College, there will be a public session to mark the 40th anniversary of the Council for Interreligious Dialogue with talks by the President Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald and former president for 18 years, Cardinal Francis Arinze, and Prof. Franco Cardini from the University of Florence. The talks will be followed by testimony from representatives of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. (S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 17/5/2004; Righe 37 - Parole 499)