Dialogue essential to Christianity, Pope tells non-believing journalist

Pope Francis greets children as they arrive in Vatican City aboard a train during the Journey of Beauty event June 23 2013 Credit Alan Holdren CNA 7 CNA 6 25 13 Pope Francis greets children as they arrive in Vatican City aboard a train during the Journey of Beauty event June 23, 2013. | Alan Holdren/CNA.

In a letter to a prominent non-believing Italian journalist, Pope Francis called dialogue a "profound and indispensable expression" of the Christian life.

It "seems to me that it is nothing other than positive, not only for us individually but also for the society in which we live, to pause to dialogue on a reality as important as the faith is," the Pope said in a Sept 11 letter to Eugenio Scalfari, translated by the Catholic news agency Zenit.

Scalfari, the 89-year-old journalist and founder of the Italian newspaper "La Repubblica," had posed several questions to the Pope in response to his July encyclical "Lumen Fidei."

The Pope replied that his latest encyclical was intended not only to confirm the faithful but also to advance a "sincere and rigorous dialogue" between Catholics and non-believers. Dialogue is not secondary to the Christian life, he said.

Citing "Lumen Fidei," he reflected that faith "grows in coexistence that respects the other." The certainty of faith "makes possible witness and dialogue with everyone."

Pope Francis said his own faith is born from the "encounter with Jesus" that "has touched my heart and given direction and new meaning to my existence." This was made possible by "the community of faith in which I have lived," the Church.

"Believe me, without the Church I would not have been able to encounter Christ, also in the awareness that the immense gift that faith is kept in the fragile earthen vessels of our humanity," he said.

The Pope examined the "paradox" of Christianity's present reputation among many non-believers. The faith is expressed through the symbol of light, but has come to be referred to as "the darkness of superstition that is opposed to the light of reason."

He lamented the "incommunicability" that has existed between the Church and the "modern culture of enlightenment stamp."

He then took the opportunity of the letter to reflect on the life of Jesus.

Pope Francis spoke of the "scandal" that Jesus' words and action caused, crediting this to his "extraordinary authority." This authority is "not about something exterior or forced" but is "something that emanates from within."

Jesus' authority is "not aimed at exercising power over others, but at serving them, at giving them liberty and the fullness of life. Jesus shows this to such an extent that he faces "incomprehension, betrayal, rejection" and ultimately condemnation to death.

"But Jesus remains faithful to God, to the end," the Pope said.

Jesus Christ is the "son of a God who is love and who wishes with all His being that man, every man, discover himself and also live as His true son," Pope Francis explained.

He said that Jesus' Resurrection is not done "to triumph over those who rejected him" but instead "to attest that the love of God is stronger than death, the forgiveness of God is stronger than any sin, and that it is worthwhile to spend one's life, to the end, witnessing this immense gift."

The originality of the Christian faith rests in its foundation on the Incarnation and its participation in Jesus' relationship with God the Father, he said.

Jesus' life means that "we are all called to be children of the one Father and brothers among ourselves."

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"The singularity of Jesus is for communication, not for exclusion," the Pope added. The Christian life means service to all men and to "the whole of man" to keep awake "the sense of hope that drives one to do good despite everything and always looking to the beyond."

Pope Francis' letter also considered the role of non-Christians. He praised the Jewish people's persevering faith in God and his remarks about non-believers made headlines.

In answer to the question of whether God forgives "one who doesn't believe and doesn't seek the faith," the Pope responded that "the mercy of God has no limits if one turns to him with a sincere and contrite heart." He stressed the non-believer's need for "obeying one's conscience."

"Sin, also for those who don't have faith, exists when one goes against one's conscience. To listen to and to obey it means, in fact, to decide in face of what is perceived as good or evil. And on this decision pivots the goodness or malice of our action," the Pope said.

Pope Francis characterized his letter to Scalfari as "tentative and provisional" but also a "sincere and confident answer to the invitation to escort you in a segment of the road together."

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