MEETING WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF OTHER RELIGIONS
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Chapter Hall of St. Mary's Cathedral, Sydney
Friday, 18 July 2008
I extend cordial greetings of peace and goodwill to all of you who are here
representing various religious traditions in Australia. Grateful for this
encounter, I thank Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence and Sheikh Mohamadu Saleem for
the words of welcome which they expressed in their own name and on behalf of
your respective communities.
Australia is renowned for the congeniality of its people towards neighbour and
visitor alike. It is a nation that holds freedom of religion in high regard.
Your country recognizes that a respect for this fundamental right gives men and
women the latitude to worship God according to their conscience, to nurture
their spirits, and to act upon the ethical convictions that stem from their
A harmonious relationship between religion and public life is all the more
important at a time when some people have come to consider religion as a cause
of division rather than a force for unity. In a world threatened by sinister
and indiscriminate forms of violence, the unified voice of religious people
urges nations and communities to resolve conflicts through peaceful means and
with full regard for human dignity. One of the many ways religion stands at the
service of mankind is by offering a vision of the human person that highlights
our innate aspiration to live generously, forging bonds of friendship with our
neighbours. At their core, human relations cannot be defined in terms of power,
domination and self-interest. Rather, they reflect and perfect manâ€™s natural
inclination to live in communion and accord with others.
The religious sense planted within the human heart opens men and women to God
and leads them to discover that personal fulfilment does not consist in the
selfish gratification of ephemeral desires. Rather, it leads us to meet the
needs of others and to search for concrete ways to contribute to the common
good. Religions have a special role in this regard, for they teach people that
authentic service requires sacrifice and self-discipline, which in turn must be
cultivated through self-denial, temperance and a moderate use of the worldâ€™s
goods. In this way, men and women are led to regard the environment as a marvel
to be pondered and respected rather than a commodity for mere consumption. It
is incumbent upon religious people to demonstrate that it is possible to find
joy in living simply and modestly, generously sharing oneâ€™s surplus with those
suffering from want.
Friends, these values, I am sure you will agree, are particularly important to
the adequate formation of young people, who are so often tempted to view life
itself as a commodity. They also have an aptitude for self-mastery: indeed, in
sports, the creative arts, and in academic studies, they readily welcome it as a
challenge. Is it not true that when presented with high ideals, many young
people are attracted to asceticism and the practice of moral virtue through
self-respect and a concern for others? They delight in contemplating the gift
of creation and are intrigued by the mystery of the transcendent. In this
regard, both faith schools and State schools could do even more to nurture the
spiritual dimension of every young person. In Australia, as elsewhere, religion
has been a motivating factor in the foundation of many educational institutions,
and rightly it continues to occupy a place in school curricula today. The theme
of education frequently emerges from the deliberations of the Interfaith
Cooperation for Peace and Harmony, and I warmly encourage those participating in
this initiative to continue the conversation about the values that integrate the
intellectual, human and religious dimensions of a sound education.
The worldâ€™s religions draw constant attention to the wonder of human existence.
Who can help but marvel at the power of the mind to grasp the secrets of nature
through scientific discovery? Who is not stirred by the possibility of forming
a vision for the future? Who is not impressed by the power of the human spirit
to set goals and to develop ways of achieving them? Men and women are endowed
with the ability not only to imagine how things might be better, but to invest
their energies to make them better. We are conscious of our unique relationship
to the natural realm. If, then, we believe that we are not subject to the laws
of the material universe in the same way as the rest of creation, should we not
make goodness, compassion, freedom, solidarity, and respect for every individual
an essential part of our vision for a more humane future?
Yet religion, by reminding us of human finitude and weakness, also enjoins us
not to place our ultimate hope in this passing world. Man is â€ślike a breath,
his days are like a passing shadowâ€ť (Ps 144:4). All of us have
experienced the disappointment of falling short of the good we wish to
accomplish and the difficulty of making the right choice in complex situations.
The Church shares these observations with other religions. Motivated by
charity, she approaches dialogue believing that the true source of freedom is
found in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians believe it is he who fully
discloses the human potential for virtue and goodness, and he who liberates us
from sin and darkness. The universality of human experience, which transcends
all geographical boundaries and cultural limitations, makes it possible for
followers of religions to engage in dialogue so as to grapple with the mystery
of lifeâ€™s joys and sufferings. In this regard, the Church eagerly seeks
opportunities to listen to the spiritual experience of other religions. We
could say that all religions aim to penetrate the profound meaning of human
existence by linking it to an origin or principle outside itself. Religions
offer an attempt to understand the cosmos as coming from and returning to this
origin or principle. Christians believe that God has revealed this origin and
principle in Jesus, whom the Bible refers to as the â€śAlpha and Omegaâ€ť (cf.
Rev 1:8; 22:1).
My dear friends, I have come to Australia as an ambassador of peace. For this
reason, I feel blessed to meet you who likewise share this yearning and the
desire to help the world attain it. Our quest for peace goes hand in hand with
our search for meaning, for it is in discovering the truth that we find the sure
road to peace (cf.
Message for World Day of Peace, 2006). Our effort to
bring about reconciliation between peoples springs from, and is directed to,
that truth which gives purpose to life. Religion offers peace, but more
importantly, it arouses within the human spirit a thirst for truth and a hunger
for virtue. May we encourage everyone â€“ especially the young â€“ to marvel at the
beauty of life, to seek its ultimate meaning, and to strive to realize its
With these sentiments of respect and encouragement, I commend you to the
providence of Almighty God, and I assure you of my prayers for you and your
loved ones, the members of your communities, and all the citizens of Australia.