Thursday, April 24, 2008

Benedict's Speech to Inter-religious Leaders

Pope Benedict, last week, addressed a group of inter religious leaders. Full text is here, but I came away with a few interesting thoughts.

First of all, the overarching theme of the first part of the talk was the value of interreligious dialog and cooperation, especially in the areas of religious freedom, and morality. But, yet, there is a critique.
There is a further point I wish to touch upon here. I have noticed a growing interest among governments to sponsor programs intended to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue. These are praiseworthy initiatives. At the same time, religious freedom, interreligious dialogue and faith-based education aim at something more than a consensus regarding ways to implement practical strategies for advancing peace. The broader purpose of dialogue is to discover the truth. What is the origin and destiny of mankind? What are good and evil? What awaits us at the end of our earthly existence? Only by addressing these deeper questions can we build a solid basis for the peace and security of the human family, for "wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendor of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace" (Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, 3).
Dear friends, in our attempt to discover points of commonality, perhaps we have shied away from the responsibility to discuss our differences with calmness and clarity. While always uniting our hearts and minds in the call for peace, we must also listen attentively to the voice of truth. In this way, our dialogue will not stop at identifying a common set of values, but go on to probe their ultimate foundation. We have no reason to fear, for the truth unveils for us the essential relationship between the world and God. We are able to perceive that peace is a "heavenly gift" that calls us to conform human history to the divine order. Herein lies the "truth of peace" (cf. Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace).
And that is the danger. The substance of this dialog cannot be "I'm okay, you're okay, we're all okay!" for that doesn't help advance mankind. Benedict/Ratzinger mentions in Jesus of Nazareth (Chapter 3) how some modern theologies have watered down the "Kingdom of God". In this view, we have gone from a Church-centered to a Christ-centered, to a God-centered, and finally to a Kingdom-centered view. In this way, it is claimed, everybody can be included. The problem, Benedict/Ratzinger points out, is that God has disappeared and man is the only actor on the stage (p. 54).

This address is a challenge to all men of good will, to be open to the Truth. Isn't it such a blessing that we have a Pope, infallible in matters of the Faith, to protect this Truth for us, though the intercession of the Holy Spirit.

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