Pope: 'The world’s religions draw constant attention to the wonder of human existence'

Sydney, Australia, Jul 18, 2008 / 05:07 am (CNA) .- Addressing around twenty religious leaders from the Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist faith communities, Pope Benedict called on them to help promote a harmonious relationship between religion and public life.

The Pope received the inter-faith group at the Chapter Hall of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Friday. The guests included Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, Sheikh Mohamadu Saleem and Rev. Shigenobe Watanabe, the Buddhist community leader.

Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell greeted the guests gathered saying “The presence here today of leaders from other faiths is an acknowledgement that this wisdom is not limited to Christians alone, but to all believers…”

The Pope spoke of the importance of a “harmonious relationship between religion and public life” particularly at a time when religion is considered as “a cause of division rather than a force for unity.”

The Pope also spoke of the special role religion plays in leading people who are searching for "concrete ways to contribute to the common good.”

“Religions… 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 world’s goods.”

The Pope also used this opportunity to encourage religions in their efforts at education saying “ faith schools and State schools could do even more to nurture the spiritual dimension of every young person.”

Finally the Pope emphasised that commonalities of humanity as a force for creating peaceful dialogue between religions.

“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 life’s joys and sufferings.”

“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- especially the young – to marvel at the beauty of life, to seek its ultimate meaning, and to strive to realize its sublime potential!”

The Church shares these observations with other religions out of charity, Pope Benedict said. When the Church approaches dialogue with other religions, she does so "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 Holy Father explained to the religious leaders.

The Pope was also addressed by the Chief Minister of Sydney's Great Synagogue, Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence who praised the Catholic Church for its contributions to society, and to the Jewish faith.

“It is a world which has become enriched and improved to a great part through the endeavours and enterprises of you and your worthy predecessors at the Vatican,” Rabbi Lawrence said.

Sheikh Mohamadu Saleem, representing Muslims and the National Council of Imams also gave a short speech.

“Christians and Muslims, in particular the youth, are working together” he said, to achieve “justice and peace in many parts of the world.”

“The Muslim community in Australia is very grateful for this opportunity to welcome your respectful eminence.”