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Vatican considering dialogue with non-believers in Chicago and DC
By David Kerr
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi

.- The Vatican’s new initiative aimed at sparking dialogue with atheists and agnostics may soon be coming to North America.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, told CNA in a recent interview that the “The Courtyard of the Gentiles” may come to three cities.

“Quebec in Canada, which is one of the so-called ‘most secular’ places there is, where it seems like these days the question of faith is almost bothersome,” he said.

“And, also, we’re thinking about two U.S. cities--Chicago on the one hand and Washington on the other.”

The project was launched as an answer to the Pope’s call for a “new evangelization.” It draws upon the Church’s insistence that faith and reason are wholly compatible and can therefore form the basis for dialogue with non-Catholics, non-Christians and even atheists and agnostics.

The invitation list for the event is generous and includes a whole host of intellectuals drawn from both the arts and sciences. 

“So it is a real and proper dialogue between reason and faith. And given that freedom you also get some conflict, some mutual disagreements, which is foreseeable,” said Cardinal Ravasi.

Cardinal Ravasi explained that his council is looking at Chicago and Washington as the two possible U.S. locations primarily because of their intellectual and cultural significance.

“Chicago is one of the liveliest of cities from a social and cultural point of view,” Cardinal Ravasi said, going on to explain the Vatican’s working links with scientists at both Notre Dame University and Harvard.

“And Cardinal Wuerl of Washington has already involved us in a series of specific events, most of all for science and faith, and he’s also my companion of the cardinalate. We became cardinals together at the same time!”

“And it is perhaps a city, being the capital, which is another emblem of the United States,” he said.

The title “Courtyard of the Gentiles”  is a reference to a part of the Temple of Jerusalem. It was the furthest non-Jews could enter into the compound and a place where they could interact with Jews. In the Gospels, Christ clears the money-changers from this area.

Pope Benedict has said previously that it was “cleared of extraneous affairs so that it could be a free space for the Gentiles who wished to pray there to the one God, even if they could not take part in the mystery for whose service the inner part of the Temple was reserved.”

Any visit of the Courtyard of the Gentiles to North America is likely to take place next year.


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