.- To commemorate the end of the fasting season of Ramadan, Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, sent a message today to Muslims around the world. The cardinal encouraged continued work in dialogue and spoke out against the “painful scourge” of violence and terrorism, which he said, Muslims and Catholics should struggle to overcome together.
The sending of a Ramadan message is now customary at the Vatican, though this message has drawn a bit more attention following recent tensions between the Church and many in the Muslim world.
Pope Benedict XVI himself relayed a pre-Ramadan message during a meeting with diplomats of several Islamic countries as well as Muslim religious leaders.
Cardinal Poupard began by echoing Pope Benedict’s wishes for “peace, tranquility, and joy” in the “hearts, homes and countries” of Muslims everywhere.
The Vatican interreligious dialogue chief made passing reference to the tense situation which has arisen following a lecture offered by Pope Benedict. The academic speech was mischaracterized by many as an attack on Islam and the Muslim prophet Mohammed. The resulting outcry resulted in violent protests and even the murder of a Catholic religious sister and an Orthodox Christian priest.
“The particular circumstances that we have recently experienced together demonstrate clearly that, however arduous the path of authentic dialogue may be at times, it is more necessary than ever,” he said.
Noting that Ramadan allows time for prayer and reflection the cardinal expressed his hope that Muslims reflected on the “serious problems that affect our times.” Poupard noted the problems of “injustice, poverty, tensions, and conflicts between countries as well as within them,” but said that, “violence and terrorism are a particularly painful scourge. So many human lives destroyed, so many women widowed, so many children who have lost a parent, so many children orphaned … So many wounded, physically and spiritually… So much, which has taken years of sacrifice and toil to build, destroyed in a few minutes!”
“As Christian and Muslim believers,” the cardinal continued, “are we not the first to be called to offer our specific contribution to resolve this serious situation and these complex problems? Without doubt, the credibility of religions and also the credibility of our religious leaders and all believers is at stake. If we do not play our part as believers, many will question the usefulness of religion and the integrity of all men and women who bow down before God.”
Cardinal Poupard then turned to the Pope’s first encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), which, he said, “echoes the most characteristic ‘definition’ of God in Christian Sacred Scriptures, ‘God is love’ (1 Jn 4: 8).”
“Genuine love for God is inseparable from love for others: ‘Anyone who says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, is a liar, since a man who does not love the brother he can see cannot love God, whom he has not seen’ (1 Jn 4: 20).”
“In recalling this point, the Encyclical underlines the importance of fraternal charity in the Church’s mission: love, to be credible, must be effective. It must come to the aid of everyone, beginning with the most needy,” Poupard noted. “True love must be of service to all the needs of daily life; it must also seek just and peaceful solutions to the serious problems which afflict our world.”
“Believers who are engaged in helping people in need or seeking solutions to these problems, do so above all through their love for God,” the cardinal said.
“Everyday worries together with the more serious problems faced by the world call for our attention and our action. Let us ask God in prayer to help us confront them with courage and determination. In those places where we can work together, let us not labor separately. The world has need, and so do we, of Christians and Muslims who respect and value each other and bear witness to their mutual love and co-operation to the glory of God and the good of all humanity.”
The letter was signed both by Cardinal Poupard and Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, Secretary for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.