REFLECTION FOR BOARD OF DIRECTORS
19 November 2015
Thank you very much for your invitation to this moment of reflection which begins this meeting of the Board of Directors.
We have just celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Nostra aetate, a perfect occasion for rediscovering the importance of interreligious dialogue. The Message of Nostra aetate remains always “fresh”, as underlined in section 1, of which I would like to just mention a few points: the interdependence of peoples; the human search to give sense to life, suffering, death… enduring questions of every human person; the common origin and unique destiny of humanity; the unicity of the human family; and the continuing search for God or the Absolute by religions, within the various ethnic and cultural traditions (cf. NA, 1).
But, I would like to call your attention to another document of which we in the Catholic Church are commemorating its 30th Anniversary: The Encounter of Pope John Paul II with young Muslims in Casablanca (Morocco), an event that even Pope Francis has quoted in his Address in Saint Peter’s Square during the Interreligious General Audience last 28th of October on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the proclamation of Nostra aetate. Although it refers to Christian-Muslim Dialogue, its message is relevant for any type of interreligious relations, whether it be Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.
Generally, we Christians and Muslims, have, in the past, misunderstood and sometimes gone against each other through polemics and even wars. But, “we have many things in common, as believers and as human beings. We live in the same world, marked by many signs of hope, but also by multiple signs of anguish. For us, Abraham is a very model of faith in God, of submission to his will and of confidence in his goodness. We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection”.
These words were spoken by Pope John Paul II 30 years ago, on the 19th of August 1985, in the Casablanca Stadium meeting with the young Muslims, a remarkable event of promoting interreligious dialogue.
The Church “shows particular attention to the believing Muslims, given their faith in the one God, their sense of prayer, and their esteem for the moral life (cf. n. 3). It desires that Christians and Muslims together ‘promote harmony for all human beings, social justice, moral values, peace, and liberty’" (ibid.).
With this, today “dialogue is today more necessary than ever. It flows from our fidelity to God and supposes that we know how to recognize God by faith and to witness to him by word and deed in a world ever more secularized and at times even atheistic”.
John Paul II, always referring to Nostra aetate, had manifested his conviction that “we cannot truly pray to God the Father of all mankind, if we treat any people in other than a brotherly fashion, for all mankind is created in God's image" (NA,5). “Therefore we must also respect, love and help every human being, because he is a creature of God and, in a certain sense, his image and his representative, because he is the road leading to God, and because he does not fully fulfil himself unless he knows God, unless he accepts him with all his heart, and unless he obeys him to the extent of the ways of perfection”.
“Therefore, respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres, especially in that which concerns basic freedoms, more particularly religious freedom. They favour peace and agreement between the peoples. They help to resolve together the problems of today's men and women, especially those of the young”.
The Pope observed that “in this world there are frontiers and divisions between men, as also misunderstandings between the generations; there are, likewise, racism, wars and injustices, as also hunger, waste and unemployment. These are the dramatic evils which touch us all, more particularly the young of the entire world. Some are in danger of discouragement, others of capitulation, and others of willing to change everything by violence or by extreme solutions. Wisdom teaches us that self-discipline and love are then the only means to the desired renewal”.
“It is by working in harmony that one can be effective. Work properly understood is a service to others. It creates links of solidarity. The experience of working in common enables one to purify oneself and to discover the richness of others. It is thus that, gradually, a climate of trust can be born which enables each one to grow, to expand, and "to be more". Do not fail, dear young people, to collaborate with the adults, especially with your parents and teachers as well as with the "leaders" of society and of the State. The young should not isolate themselves from the others. The young need the adults, just as the adults need the young”.
He then remarked: “This world, which is about to come, depends on the young people of all the countries of the world. Our world is divided, and even shattered; it experiences multiple conflicts and grave injustices. There is no real North-South solidarity; there is not enough mutual assistance between the nations of the South. There are in the world cultures and races which are not respected. Why is all this? It is because people do not accept their differences: they do not know each other sufficiently. They reject those who have not the same civilization. They refuse to help each other. They are unable to free themselves from egoism and from self-conceit”.
The Pope continued: “we, Christians and Muslims, must recognize with joy the religious values that we have in common, and give thanks to God for them. Both of us believe in one God the only God, who is all Justice and all Mercy; we believe in the importance of prayer, of fasting, of almsgiving, of repentance and of pardon; we believe that God will be a merciful judge to us at the end of time, and we hope that after the resurrection he will be satisfied with us and we know that we will be satisfied with him”.
For this, we are in need of a particular kind of loyalty which “demands also that we should recognize and respect our differences. Obviously the most fundamental is the view that we hold on the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. You know that, for the Christians, this Jesus causes them to enter into an intimate knowledge of the mystery of God and into a filial communion by his gifts, so that they recognize him and proclaim him Lord and Saviour. Those are important differences, which we can accept with humility and respect, in mutual tolerance; there is a mystery there on which, I am certain, God will one day enlighten us”.
I should like to finish by invoking him personally in your presence:
O God, you are our creator.
You are limitlessly good and merciful.
To You is due the praise of every creature.
O God, You have given to us an interior law by which we should live.
To do Your will is to perform our task.
To follow Your ways is to find peace of soul.
To You we offer our obedience.
Guide us in all the steps that we undertake on earth.
Free us from evil inclinations which turn our heart from Your will.
Do not permit that in invoking Your Name we should ever justify the human disorders.
O God, you are the One Alone to whom we make our adoration.
Do not permit that we should estrange ourselves from You.
O God, judge of all mankind, help us to belong to Your elect on the last day.
O God, author of justice and peace, grant us true joy and authentic love, as also a lasting fraternity among all peoples.
Fill us with Your gifts for ever. Amen!