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Religion needs reason, urges Cardinal

29 May 2008

by Bill Bowder

Hopeful message: Cardinal Tauran

Hopeful message: Cardinal Tauran

THE President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, drew a “roadmap” this week of the way in which he believes Christians and Muslims can offer a message of hope to the world.

Speaking at Heythrop College, in London, on Tuesday, the Cardinal said that believers were “prophets of hope”. Christians and Muslims were heralds of a two-fold message: first, that only God was worthy of adoration, which meant that the idols of wealth, power, appearance, and hedonism were a danger to human dignity; and, second, that, “in God’s sight, all men and women belong to the same race, to the same family. They are all called to freedom and to encounter him after death.”

“They know that, gifted by God with a heart and intelligence, they can with his help, change the course of history,” the Cardinal said. They could make of all humanity one authentic family. “It is a beautiful roadmap, isn’t it?” But to travel that road, reason had to be “conjugated” with religion.

The Cardinal, who was speaking at the invitation of the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, and the RC bishops of England and Wales, addressed the question “Should we be afraid of religion?”

God, dismissed in the past, had reappeared in public discourse, he said. The modern world could not be understood without religions, but this was because, paradoxically, “they are seen as a danger: fanaticism, fundamentalism, and terrorism have been or still are associated with a perverted form of Islam. It is not, of course, the true Islam practised by the majority of this religion’s followers.”

In Iraq, India, and Nigeria, 123 Christians had been killed last year because of their faith. Religions could serve holiness or alienation, and preach peace or war. “Yet it is always necessary to explain that it is not the religions themselves that wage war, but rather their followers.”

Since the Second Vatican Council, Roman Catholics had moved from tolerance of other religions to encounter, and then to dialogue. In the dialogue of spirituality, RC monks would spend six months in a Buddhist monastery, and Buddhist monks would spend six months in an RC monastery.

In the dialogue of life, Christians and non-Christian neighbours shared each other’s joys and troubles. In the dialogue of work, they collaborated, especially for the well-being of the sick, the poor, and the lonely. In the dialogue of theology, experts searched the depths of their respective religious heritages.

“Believers who carry on this kind of dialogue do not pass unnoticed. They are a society’s wealth,” the Cardinal told the audience of bishops, clergy, students, and other lay people.

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