As world religious leaders meet this week in Turkey for a conference seeking collaboration between the world’s three major monotheistic religions--Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Pope Benedict reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to “tirelessly” seek cooperation between peoples, cultures and faiths.
Representatives from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity announced the second international conference today, which is focusing on the theme: "Peace and Tolerance - Dialogue and Understanding in South East Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia."
The event, taking place in Istanbul from November 7th to 9th, is being attended by His Holiness Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Rabbi Arthur Schneider, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation of New York, and is largely under the patronage of Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission.
Today’s Vatican communiqué announced that the conference will seek "to promote collaboration between the three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in order to favor reciprocal respect and mutual acceptance, and to achieve peaceful coexistence in a world that has suffered so cruelly through wars and conflicts."
Pope Benedict XVI has chosen Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and of the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, as his own representative.
According to the Vatican, Cardinal Kasper is being accompanied by secretary of the Jewish-relation commission, Fr. Norbert Hofmann S.D.B., and by Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
The Holy Father sent a message to Cardinal Kasper, expressing his best wishes to the conference participants, as well as his "appreciation for their strong commitment to fostering understanding and cooperation between the followers of different religions."
The Pope wrote that, "The themes of peace and tolerance are of vital importance in a world where rigid attitudes so often give rise to misunderstanding and suffering and can even lead to deadly violence.”
“Dialogue is clearly indispensable”, he continued, “if solutions are to be found to the harmful conflicts and tensions that cause so much damage to society. Only through dialogue can there be hope that the world will become a place of peace and fraternity.”
"It is the duty of every person of good will, and especially of every believer,” he stressed, “to help build a peaceful society and to overcome the temptation towards aggressive and futile confrontation between different cultures and ethnic groups.”
The Pope further wrote that, “Each of the world's peoples has a responsibility to make its own particular contribution to peace and harmony by placing its spiritual and cultural heritage and its ethical values at the service of the human family throughout the world. This goal can only be achieved if at the heart of the economic, social and cultural development of each community is a proper respect for life and for the dignity of every human person.”
On this note, Benedict pointed out that "A healthy society always promotes respect for the inviolable and inalienable rights of all people," before quoting the Encyclical 'Evangelium vitae,' which says "'Without an objective moral grounding, not even democracy is capable of ensuring a stable peace.“
“In this sense,” the Pope said, “moral relativism undermines the workings of democracy, which by itself is not enough to guarantee tolerance and respect among peoples."
The Holy Father went on to highlight the importance of education in truth, and of fostering "reconciliation wherever there has been injury. Respect for the rights of others, bearing fruit in sincere and truthful dialogue, will indicate practical steps that can be taken."
"Every person of good will”, he wrote, “has a duty to work towards this goal. It is all the more urgent, however, for those who recognize in God the One who is Father of all, Whose mercy is freely offered to all, Who judges with justice and offers to all His life-giving friendship.”
“For Christians,” the Pope affirmed, “the Creator's generosity is visible in ... Christ, our peace and our true reconciliation."
Pope Benedict concluded his message by asking Cardinal Kasper to take the opportunity of the conference "to reaffirm the Catholic Church's strong commitment to work tirelessly for cooperation between peoples, cultures and religions."