This morning in St Peter’s Square has been held the general “inter-religious” audience desired by the Holy Father, on the occasion of the 50TH anniversary of the Conciliar Declaration “Nostra Aetate” on the relations of the Catholic Church with non-Christian religions. The Pope has met with brothers and sisters of various religions and participants at the International Congress organized for the occasion by the Pontifical Council for inter-religious dialog, in collaboration with the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and the Pontifical Gregorian University. The general inter-religious audience is an opportunity to thank God for the path we have walked so far and for a fruitful encounter and dialog between the various representatives who speak up.
“In General Audiences – began Pope Francis – there are often people or groups belonging to other religions; but today, this presence is very special, to remember together the 50TH anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration Nostra Aetate on the relationship of the Church with non-Christian religions. This topic was very dear to the Blessed Pope Paul VI, who during the feast of Pentecost of the year before the end of the Council, had already established the Secretariat for non-Christians, currently the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialog. I express my gratitude and my warm welcome to people and groups of different religions, who have wished to be present today, especially to those who have come here from far away”.
“The dialog we need – continues the Pontiff – must be open and respectful, and this is when it proves fruitful. Mutual respect is the condition and, at the same time, the end of inter-religious dialog: to respect the right of the others to life, the right to physical integrity, their fundamental freedoms, that is, freedom of conscience, thought, expression, and religion”.
Peter’s Successor highlights the profound bond existing between Christians, Jews, and Muslims. “A special gratitude is due to God deserves the real transformation that has had in 50 years, the relationship between Christians and Jews. Indifference and opposition have turned into collaboration and benevolence. From enemies and strangers we have become friends and brothers”. “Mutual knowledge, respect, and esteem – he explains – apply also to the relations with other religions and, in particular, with Muslims, who ‘worship the one God, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men'”. “They – he continues – refer to Abraham’s fatherhood, they venerate Jesus as a prophet, honor his Virgin Mother, Mary, they await the day of judgment, and have been practicing prayer, alms-giving and fasting”.
“As a result of violence and terrorism, has spread an attitude of suspicion or even condemnation of religions” but, says Pope Francis, “the world looks at us as believers, it urges us to collaborate among ourselves and with men and women of good will who do not profess any religion, it asks of us concrete answers on many topics: peace, hunger, and misery which afflict millions of people, environmental crisis, violence, in particular violence committed in the name of religion, corruption, moral degradation, the crisis of the family, economy, finance, and especially of hope”.
The Pontiff offers a solution: “We, believers, do not have recipes for these problems, but we have a great resource: prayer. And we, believers, pray. We must pray. Prayer is our treasure, on which we draw according to our respective traditions, to ask for the gifts humanity yearns for”. And, in conclusion, he remarks: “Dear brothers and sisters, as to the future of inter-religious dialog, the first thing we have to do is pray. And pray for each other: we are brothers! Nothing is possible without the Lord, but with him everything becomes so! May our prayer – each according to his/her own tradition – adhere fully to the will of God, who wishes all men to recognize one another as brothers and sisters and live as such, forming the great human family in the harmony of diversity”.