(Vatican Radio) An invitation to hold their next meeting in Iran, a commitment to pursuing interfaith dialogue and to opening up hearts and minds to the “other” in the family, school and society. Those were some of the results of the Third Catholic-Muslim Summit organized December 2-4 by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The theme of the summit was “Christians and Muslims: Believers living in Society.”
Tracey McClure spoke with the Council’s President, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran as the summit wrapped up last night here in Rome.
Listen to the interview:
In addition to Cardinal Tauran, the three principal leaders of the Summit included, His Royal Highness El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan; Episcopalian Bishop John Bryson Chane, senior advisor on Interreligious Dialogue to the Washington National Cathedral; and Ayatollah Sayyed Prof. Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad, Director of Islamic Studies at Iran’s Academy of Sciences.
Asked what made this conference different from the so many others which have taken place, Cardinal Tauran replied, “First of all because the participants were coming from all over the world, from the five continents. It was a very large representation. And of course, the topic, “Believers in Society” is a very attractive topic because of the situation [of conflict and persecution in countries like Syria and Iraq] and it is very important, while we have this barbarian actions [by Islamic extremists] on the one side, and on the other side, to see that if it is contagious, good is also contagious. So the text we have is a very substantial one and [we hope it] will lead to a more pacific world.”
Cardinal Tauran agreed that participants at the conference shared a degree of optimism regarding the progress of interfaith dialogue. “Yes indeed because you see for example, the Shia, for the first time, talked about the necessity of putting the sacred Scriptures in the framework of history. This is the beginning of hermeneutics – this is very new and very courageous, coming from Shia from Iran.”
The French Cardinal added, “Now we have practiced dialogue for many years – now we have to work together, hand by hand, and build something.”
Cardinal Tauran said he felt the latest summit achieved “the necessity to transmit values to the young generation: family, school, university and temples/churches. I think the future is the young people… we have been unable to transmit values [to them].”
Cardinal Tauran noted the participants discussed the need, too, to teach younger generations about the “facts” surrounding different faiths. In particular, he lamented the lack of instruction about world religions in European schools: “In France they tried to do it but the great difficulty was they tried to find teachers capable of teaching religions.”
Courses on Islam and other religions should also be integrated into the curricula of Catholic seminaries, he pointed out: “I was in Spain a year ago and asked 23 young seminarians ‘have you met a Muslim? Have you opened the Koran?’ So yes, I think this is very serious – to teach religious facts.”
“In the Cathedral of Strasburg the other morning, there was a group of young German adolescents – they were [looking at] a beautiful Christ [figure] in ivory from the 16th century – and they said: it’s Spartacus, Spartacus!” he recalled, adding, “in the middle of the European continent so it shows the religious illiteracy!”
“So we have to teach because our faith has a content – it is not a myth. Jesus Christ lived in a precise place, in a certain time in history… so we have to [instruct young generations about] our faith and its content.”
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