"Let Us Help to Foster Non-Violence Among Our Followers"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the message written by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, to Hindus on the occasion of Diwali, the festival of light, which is celebrated today. The message is titled "Christians and Hindus: Together in Favor of Non-Violence."* * *
Dear Hindu Friends, 1. On behalf of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, I am pleased to send you and your communities my cordial greetings as you prepare to celebrate Diwali, the festival of light. 2. Traditionally on this occasion, we share a reflection on a matter of common interest. I would like to propose then considering together how we can live harmoniously in today's society, witnessing to the truth, light and hope that Diwali celebrates. While religions are often blamed for society’s ills, we know that it is rather the manipulation of religion, contrary to its fundamental beliefs, that is used to carry out so many forms of violence. 3. In this regard, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI said, "In the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness". He added, "This more comes from God. Thus by the mercy of God … it is possible to tip the balance of the world from evil to good, when we recognize that it begins in that small and decisive ‘world’ which is the human heart" (Address, "Angelus", 18 February 2007). For Christians, in the "Sermon on the Mount" Jesus called on his disciples to love their enemies, to pray for those who hated them, to do good to those who wronged them, to walk the extra mile with their opponents (Cf.Matthew 5). 4. In the Hindu tradition, non-violence is one of the more important teachings. Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Indian nation, is respected and held in high regard by people of different generations around the world for his complete dedication to the service of humanity. During the course of his struggle for freedom, he realized that "an eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind". Throughout his life, he developed among others, the concept of Ahimsa (non-violence). He is a model for non-violence and he led by example to the point of laying down his life because of his refusal to engage in violence. 5. Non-violence is not merely a tactical maneuver but is the attitude of one who, as the Pope affirmed, "is so convinced of God’s love and power" (ibid) that he is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy is the revolution of love, a love that does not rely ultimately on human resources but is a gift of God. 6. Non-violence is encouraged by many other religions. Non-violence is central to our beliefs as the way to promote truth, light, mutual respect, freedom and harmony. As religious leaders called to uphold the truth found in our respective religions, let us help to foster non-violence among our followers and support it in their actions. Let us do all we can to promote the sacredness of human life, the good of the poor and lowly in our midst and collaborate, through dialogue, to foster the dignity of the human person regardless of race or caste, creed or class. As Hindus and Christians, especially in the present situation, let us be won over by love without reserve, with the conviction that non-violence is the only way to build a global society that is more compassionate, more just and more caring. It is our hope and our prayer!7. Once again, let me wish you peace and joy as you gather with your loved ones and your community to celebrate the gift of Light that illumines all hearts.
Happy Diwali! Jean-Louis Cardinal TauranPresident Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata Secretary
Calls It Ever More Timely in Globalized World VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Second Vatican Council is not losing its relevance with the passing of decades, but rather is "particularly pertinent" for the Church in today's globalized world, says Benedict XVI.The Pope affirmed this in a message today to participants in an international conference being held in Rome on "Vatican II in the Pontificate of John Paul II."The event is sponsored by the St. Bonaventure Theological Faculty and the Institute for Documentation and Study of the Pontificate of John Paul II.Benedict XVI wrote that "all of us are truly debtors of this extraordinary ecclesial event," and that for him it was "an honor to participate as an expert."
"Making divine salvation accessible to the man of today was for Pope John the fundamental motive for convoking the council, and it was with this perspective that the fathers worked.
In this context, the German Pontiff praised his Polish predecessor, saying that "in the council [John Paul II] made a significant personal contribution as a council father," and that later he became its "primary executor during the years of his pontificate, by divine will."John Paul II "took up practically in all of his writings, and even more in his decisions and actions as Pontiff, the fundamental urgings of the ecumenical council Vatican II, of which he became a qualified interpreter and coherent witness," he added.
The council, Benedict XVI continued, "came from the heart of John XXIII, but it is more accurate to say that in the end, as with all the great events in the history of the Church, that it came from the heart of God, from his salvific will.""The multifaceted doctrinal heritage that we find in its dogmatic constitutions, in the declarations and decrees, moves us even now to go deeper in the Word of God to apply it today to the Church, keeping in mind the needs of the men and women of the contemporary world, who have an extreme need to know and experience the light of Christian hope."The Holy Father expressed his hope that the conference participants approach "the conciliar documents to seek in them satisfactory answers to many of the questions of our time."
"The ultimate goal of all our activities should be communion with the living God," he concluded. "In this way as well, for the fathers of Vatican II, the ultimate goal of all of the elements of renewal of the Church was to guide toward the living God, revealed in Jesus Christ."
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The work sessions of the world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God concluded at midday Saturday, with the approval of 55 propositions that the synodal assembly presented to Benedict XVI.
The proposals were voted on electronically by the 244 synod fathers present in the hall. To be approved, each proposition needed a two-thirds majority. All of the propositions that were presented were approved, confirming the evaluation of this synod as exhibiting perhaps more consensus than any synod since the Second Vatican Council reinstituted this assembly.
Part 1 The first part includes propositions on the Word of God in the faith of the Church. The proposals in this sections include suggestions so that Catholic communities better understand and live their deep relationship with the Word, Jesus Christ, who can be found in the reading and meditating Scripture. They highlight the role of the Holy Spirit, the Church and tradition, as well as the intimate relationship between Scripture and the Eucharist. Three propositions present the Word of God as a Word of reconciliation, a Word of commitment in favor of the poor, and the base of natural law. This section also considers the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.
Part 2 The second part of the document (propositions 14-37) considers the Word of God in the life of the Church. Among other things, concrete ideas are offered to improve homilies, a revision of the Lectionary is suggested, and lectio divina is promoted. It is suggested that women be allowed to be instituted lectors. This section also urges overcoming division between exegetes and theologians, or exegetes and pastors. Proposition 37 has a historical value, because it takes up the contribution make by Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.
Part 3 Propositions 38-54, on the Word of God in the mission of the Church, speaks of the Word in relation to art and culture, and the translations and availability of the Bible. This section also considers the transmission of the Word in the media, as well as the fundamentalist reading of the Bible and the phenomenon of sects. It also takes into account proposals on interreligious dialogue, the promotion of pilgrimages and studies in the Holy Land, dialogue with Judaism and Islam, and the relationship between the Word and protection of the environment. The concluding proposition is dedicated to Mary, and invites a promotion of the Angelus and the rosary -- contemplation of the Word though the eyes of the Mother of Christ.
Public The propositions were prepared by a team led by the relator-general of the synod, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec and by the special secretary, Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo. The team spent the entire night working so as to present the propositions for vote. Normally the propositions are not made public, but Benedict XVI has asked the secretariat of the synod to publish a provisional, non-official Italian translation.
"We Are Citizens and Believers, Not Citizens or Believers"
MECHELEN, Belgium, OCT. 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the final statement of the Christian-Muslims European Conference, which ended today in Mechelen. The conference was organized by the Conference of European Churches and the Council of European Bishops' Conferences.The statement is titled "Being a Citizen of Europe and a Person of Faith: Christians and Muslims As Active Partners in European Societies."* * *
This conference brought together around 45 Muslims and Christians from 16 countries of Europe. The organisers of the meeting were the Committee for Relations with Muslims in Europe of the European Bishops’ Conferences and the Conference of European Churches. It occurred as an event within the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue and the 60th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It met from October 20th to 23rd 2008 and was supported financially by the European Union
As Christians and Muslims we have gathered together here in the city of Mechelen in Belgium in order to discuss the topic Being a Citizen of Europe and a Person of Faith. Europe has undergone a process of profound transformation and is emerging as a plural, inter-ethnic, inter-cultural, inter-religious society. This has happened partly through migration, both from outside and internally.Some European countries have state churches whereas others do not. All, however, ideally have taken a decidedly neutral stance as regards religion. This attitude has led to a situation where all churches and religions are accorded equal treatment giving them the same rights and expecting from them the same duties and the same responsibilities.
There are, however, cases where one detects a process that is leading towards a progressive relegation of religion to the private sphere. In some instances this is leading to their marginalization from the public domain and, consequently, to the eradication of any sort of public manifestation of one’s faith.Whereas churches, religious communities, and ideological communities on the one hand, and the state on the other, are distinct entities with distinct domains, in a democratic society the former have a right and a duty to guide their adherents. The state should guard against confronting its citizens with the choice between loyalty towards it and fidelity towards their religious convictions. The state has a right to demand of all its citizens an open, public, commitment to democracy and an attitude of responsibility in integrating into its life, culture and traditions.
As Christians and Muslims we affirm that we are citizens and believers, not citizens or believers. We are therefore called to work hand in hand in appropriate ways with the state to which we belong without becoming subservient to governments. We say this because we believe that religious communities and the state should work together for the common good. This stems from our sense of belonging not only to our religious denominations but also to that collective enterprise that is called citizenship. We believe in the unity and diversity of our societies which help enhance and enrich our societies.
As Christians and Muslims we believe that the future of our European societies will depend in large measure on our willingness as citizens and persons of belief to preserve and develop the cultural and religious foundations of Europe and our empowerment to contribute towards it.As Muslims and Christians we believe in the principle of integration. This does not and must never carry with it the demand to forsake our religious identities. For example, this may happen through prohibiting the wearing or display of religious symbols in public places or neutralizating religious festivities with the pretext that their being allowed would harm the sensibilities of other believers or that they would go against the principles of the secular state.
As Christians and Muslims we acknowledge the right of freedom of conscience, of changing one’s religion or deciding to live without a religion, the right to demonstrate publicly and to voice one’s religious convictions without being ridiculed or intimidated into silence by prejudice or stereotyping intentionally or through lack of knowledge.As Muslims and Christians we believe that dialogue is a question of listening as much as speaking thereby deepening our mutual understanding. We therefore affirm the need to listen to women and men in all areas of leadership in civic life. Dialogue should be among ourselves as Muslims and Christians and also with other major faiths and humanist and life stance traditions. Where dialogue leads to action this may also include NGOs, Councils of Faiths, and other community organizations. We learn to heal the wounds of division stemming from past conflicts, in order to become truly ambassadors of reconciliation. To do this we should know each other.
As Christians and Muslims we affirm first and foremost our witness to our respective faiths and traditions. We offer our common witness that the human being discovers his/her identity through relationship with God. This leads us to affirm the utmost importance and vital role of the family, of human dignity, of social justice, of care for the environment. This should also rule out any use of violence in the name of religion. We also reject militant and hostile forms of secularism which create discrimination among citizens and leave no space for religious belief and practice. We need to endorse not just the social involvement of faith communities, but also the common calling to live by the Word of God.
As Muslims and Christians we call for mutual learning through opening up of mosques and churches to visitors from other communities and also to learning through engagement of people. This includes scholarly encounter and academic interaction. We need to get into the spirit of religions, as well as their outer clothing. We pledge ourselves to avoid generalisations about the other. Human rights are universal and include the right to religious freedom.
We express the wish for a partnership between Christians and Muslims in Europe in order to promote this fundamental right. Solidarity with those who suffer in and outside Europe must be encouraged and mediation offered where possible.Identity has many strands, of which religion is one. Strength in a rope comes from many strands being intertwined, including our identity as Europeans, as citizens of particular countries, and our ethnic background. We are challenged to build bridges across cultures and faiths. Europe is called to be a laboratory of learning for both Muslims and Christians.
Our desire for future generations is that they live in harmony and peace within our religious differences and work for the advancement of society. Interreligious dialogue has to begin at an early stage and within the environment where children and young people encounter each other and their differences, namely within the school classrooms and the halls of our colleges, and within our religious communities. This should involve specific projects at the local level.
As participants, we pledge ourselves to communicate the content of this document within our own communities and structures and encourage its practical implementation at the national and the local level. We recommend a follow up conference, we suggest in two years’ time, in order to assess progress on these challenges, and to focus upon further issues.
Shows Scope of Anti-Christian Violence LONDON, OCT. 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- When many people think of Christian persecution, the Roman Colosseum and catacombs come to mind. But according to a new report, the worldwide persecution of Christians is on the rise even today.The charity group Aid to the Church in Need released an analysis of Christian persecution, called "Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians Oppressed for their Faith 2007/8." The research shows that in the past two years, violence against Christians has intensified in 17 out of the 30 countries investigated.The 112-page report considers nations such as Algeria, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq and Palestine, countries where the report shows that the Church's survival is at risk.
Aid to the Church in Need's United Kingdom director, Neville Kyrke-Smith, affirmed the gravity of anti-Christian persecution."What the [report summary] demonstrates is that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world today," he said. "People are aware of an enormous number of human rights abuses throughout the globe, but they are not always aware of the denial of human rights to millions of Christians."The situation is worsening because it largely escapes media attention. We are suffering from a sort of 'religious correctness' which means that talking about the persecution of Christians is not acceptable to the secular media today, and sometimes they don't even believe the facts.""Persecuted and Forgotten?" is endorsed by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop of Westminster, and Cardinal Keith O'Brien, archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Scotland.
Describing the report as "very disturbing reading," Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said, "We all have much to learn from the courageous witness shown by those persecuted for their faith and we should look to how we can express our solidarity with all those who need our prayers and support."
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 22, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The secret of Benedict XVI's theology is not just in his extraordinary knowledge, but in the fact that he lives what he believes, says the bishop in charge of the publication of his "Complete Works."Bishop Gerhard Muller of Regensburg presented today in the Vatican's press office the first volume of a 16-volume series in German with the Pope's complete works.
The project, which will include previously unpublished texts, is being prepared by the German publishing house Herder in collaboration with the Vatican Publishing House.The writings of Joseph Ratzinger, the bishop said, "unite scientific knowledge of theology to the figure of a living and lived faith." "As a science genuinely within the framework of the Church, theology can indicate for us the particular vocation of man as a creature and image of God," he said.Bishop Muller called Benedict XVI "one of the great theologians to arrive to the See of Peter" and "one of the most significant intellectuals of the 20th and 21st century."Clarity"In his scientific activity, Benedict XVI has always been able to draw from his admirable knowledge of the history of theology and of the dogmas, which he transmits in an illuminating way, highlighting the divine vision of man, upon which everything is based," the prelate continued.
"This is made accessible to many by way of the language adopted by Joseph Ratzinger. Complex themes are not subjected to a complicated reflection that impedes common understanding, but rather presented with transparency."At the center of all his thought, Bishop Muller added, "is the divine will to speak with each person and his Word that becomes light to illuminate every man."The Regensburg bishop explained that the Pope had personally asked him to take charge of the publication of the "Complete Works." He added that the elaboration of the project is being carried out in agreement with the Holy Father, who has approved the organization of each volume.
The first volume, for example, presents two academic theses: his licentiate thesis on St. Augustine's doctrine of the Church and his work on St. Bonaventure's doctrine on revelation. The volume also includes other essays and texts dedicated to Augustine and Bonaventure.Another volume is based on the 1959 inaugural conference given by Father Ratzinger: "The God of Faith and the God of the Philosophers." It also includes other texts on the theme of faith and reason.Another volume begins with his 1968 "Introduction to Christianity" and includes other texts on the profession of faith, baptism, conversion, the following of Christ and Christian life.
Dualism Between Exegesis and Theology Must Be Overcome
"VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the intervention Benedict XVI gave Tuesday during the 14th general congregation of the world Synod of Bishops, which is under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26. The theme of the assembly is on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."
* * *Dear Brothers and Sisters, the work for my book on Jesus offers ample occasion to see all the good that can come from modern exegesis, but also to recognize the problems and risks in it. Dei Verbum 12 offers two methodological indications for suitable exegetic work. In the first place, it confirms the need to use the historical-critical method, briefly describing the essential elements.
This need is the consequence of the Christian principle formulated in Jn 1:14 "Verbum caro factum est." The historical fact is a constitutive dimension of Christian faith. The history of salvation is not a myth, but a true story and therefore to be studied with the same methods as serious historical research.However, this history has another dimension, that of divine action.
Because of this, "Dei Verbum" mentions a second methodological level necessary for the correct interpretation of the words, which are at the same time human words and divine Word.The Council says, following a fundamental rule for any interpretation of a literary text, that Scripture must be interpreted in the same spirit in which it was written and thereby indicates three fundamental methodological elements to bear in mind the divine dimension, the pneumatology of the Bible: one must, that is 1) interpret the text bearing in mind the unity of the entire Scripture; today this is called canonical exegesis; at the time of the Council this term had not been created, but the Council says the same thing: one must bear in mind the unity of all of Scripture; 2) one must then bear in mind the living tradition of the whole Church, and finally 3) observe the analogy of faith.
Only where the two methodological levels, the historical-critical and the theological one, are observed, can one speak about theological exegesis -- of an exegesis suitable for this Book. While the first level today's academic exegesis works on a very high level and truly gives us help, the same cannot be said about the other level. Often this second level, the level constituted of the three theological elements indicated by Dei Verbum seems to be almost absent. And this has rather serious consequences.The first consequence of the absence of this second methodological level is that the Bible becomes a book only about the past. Moral consequences can be drawn from it, one can learn about history, but the Book only speaks about the past and its exegesis is no longer truly theological, becoming historiography, the history of literature. This is the first consequence: the Bible remains in the past, speaks only of the past.
There is also a second even more serious consequence: where the hermeneutics of faith, indicated by Dei Verbum, disappear, another type of hermeneutics appears of necessity, a secularized, positivistic hermeneutics, whose fundamental key is the certitude that the Divine does not appear in human history. According to this hermeneutic, when there seems to be a divine element, one must explain where it came from and bring it to the human element completely.Because of this, interpretations that deny the historicity of divine elements emerge. Today, the so-called mainstream of exegesis in Germany denies, for example, that the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist and says that Jesus' corpse stayed in the tomb. The Resurrection would not be an historical event, but a theological vision.
This occurs because the hermeneutic of faith is missing: therefore a profane philosophical hermeneutic is stated, which denies the possibility of entering and of the real presence of the Divine in history. The consequence of the absence of the second methodological level is that a deep chasm was created between scientific exegesis and lectio divina. This, at times, gives rise to a form of perplexity even in the preparation of homilies. Where exegesis is not theology, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology and, vice versa, when theology is not essentially the interpretation of the Scripture in the Church, this theology has no foundation anymore.
Therefore for the life and the mission of the Church, for the future of faith, this dualism between exegesis and theology must be overcome. Biblical theology and systematic theology are two dimensions of the one reality, what we call Theology. Due to this, I would hope that in one of the propositions the need to bear in mind the two methodological levels indicated in Dei Verbum 12 be mentioned, where the need to develop an exegesis not only on the historical level, but also on the theological level is needed.
Therefore, widening the formation of future exegetes in this sense is necessary, to truly open the treasures of the Scripture to today's world and to all of us.
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The proposals arising from the world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church were summarized this afternoon with 19 questions offered by the relator-general.The questions were delivered today as part of a 70-minute Latin address by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec City, which concluded the 5-minute interventions from the prelates and auditors. The address summarized all that has arisen thus far in the week and a half of synodal work, including some 230 interventions before the general congregations.
The questions range from fundamental issues, such as "what can be done to help the faithful better understand that the Word of God is Christ," to concrete suggestions, such as, "how to educate in the practice of lectio divina."Cardinal Ouellet's address, given in the presence of Benedict XVI, will serve as a base for the working groups in the coming days.These groups will prepare the proposals to synthesize the thought of the synod fathers, which will be given to the Pope as a fruit of the synod. These proposals will serve as a base for the Holy Father's postsynodal apostolic exhortation.Here is a translation of the questions, which Cardinal Ouellet clarified are not an exhaustive list.* * *
1. How can we help the faithful to understand better that the Word of God is Christ, the incarnate Word of God? How can we go deeper in the dialogue dimension of Revelation in theology and in Church practice? 2. What implications are drawn from the fact that the liturgical celebration is the ordinary place for and the summit of the Word of God? 3. How can we educate people in a living hearing of the Word of God, in the Church, for all people and every cultural level? 4. How can we educate people in lectio divina? 5. Is there a need for a compendium to help those preaching homilies better serve the Word of God? (The art of preaching -- "ars predicandi") 6. Is it possible to revise the Lectionary and modify the selections of the readings from the Old and New Testament? 7. What place does the ministerial character of the Word of God have, and what importance must be attributed to this? 8. How can we help people to better understand the intrinsic link between the Word and the Eucharist? 9. What means should be adopted for the translation and spreading of the Bible among the greatest possible number of cultures, in particular among the poor? 10. How can the relationship between exegetes, theologians and pastors be healed and their collaboration be stimulated? 11. How can we go deeper in the sense of Scripture and its interpretation, in the respect for and the balance between the word, the Spirit, the living tradition and the magisterium of the Church?12. What is thought of the idea of a world conference on the Word of God promoted by the magisterium of the Church? 13. How can the search for the unity of Christians and dialogue with the Jews be developed more around the Word of God? 14. What is understood by a biblical animation of all ministry? 15. What questions merit a more detailed examination from the magisterium of the Church (inerrancy, pneumatology, relation of inspiration-Scripture-tradition-magisterium) 16. How can interreligious dialogue and the dogmatic affirmation of Christ, sole mediator, be reconciled?1 7. How can knowledge of the Word of God through other means besides the biblical text be fostered (art, poetry, Internet, etc.)? 18. What philosophical formation is needed to better understand and interpret the Word of God and sacred Scripture? 19. What interpretive criteria of the Word of God ensure an authentic inculturation of the Gospel message?
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 14, 2008 (Zenit.org).- One of the auditors at the world Synod of Bishops has suggested that Benedict XVI opens a blog to explain the word of God in an attractive way. The proposal was made today by Agnes Lam, president of the Catholic Biblical Association of Hong Kong.
Among her suggestions to promote the word of God so that the faithful can come to know Christ, she included the blog proposal, bringing smiles from many of the bishops. She invited "the Holy Father to open a multi-language blog to shepherd today's world: [a] daily scriptural verse with [a] simple reflection, brief text and plentiful images."
Lam also suggested other means for spreading knowledge of the Bible. Above all, she recommended simple methods of meditation in a complex world. As examples, she suggested reciting verses of the Bible and lectio divina. "Reading the Bible is like eating," Lam said, "a homemade soup prepared with love and time is delicious, while fast food is tasteless."
Cardinal Tells Participants About Way of Peace By Inmaculada Álvarez
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says he is hoping that a meeting between Christians and Muslims will give rise to a renewal in mutual commitments and dialogue.The Pope said this in a telegram sent by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to a meeting sponsored by the Catholic lay Focolare movement. The conference is focused on “Love and Mercy in the Bible and in the Koran."
The meeting has gathered at Castel Gandolfo some 200 Muslims and Christians since last Thursday. The telegram expressed the Holy Father's hope that the conference "gives rise to renewed cordial resolutions of fraternity and sincere commitments, in favor of mutual dialogue in respect of every human person's dignity."The Pontiff invokes "the most high and merciful God to continue always guiding the steps of humanity on the path of justice and peace."Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, addressed the conference participants on the first day, focusing on the potential for interreligious dialogue to bring people among peoples.
The cardinal explained that interreligious dialogue "does not attempt to establish, with a reductive and syncretistic criteria, a minimalist common base of religious truths." Rather it "recognizes that everyone in search of God or the Absolute has the same dignity."There is, Cardinal Tauran contended, "thanks above all to Muslims […] a return of religion to the world scene, as an essential contribution to structuring the international society of the 21st century, even more than the ideologies of the 20th century."
"The world today cannot understand itself without religions," he said. Nevertheless, precisely because of this, religions need to "not become a source of fear, something which happens, unfortunately, because of exasperated fundamentalism.""It is a fact that today, people kill for religious motives, but it is not religion that makes war," Cardinal Tauran stated. "From here is born the need to place the message of religions at the service of a project of sanctity."Dialogue between religions, he concluded, should be considered "almost like a pilgrimage," since "when one dialogues with a follower of another religion, it is necessary to take the attitude of one who embarks on a path with him, and takes into consideration convictions about the great questions that confront every person, which are distinct from one's own."
"It is not," the cardinal clarified, "one's own faith that has to be questioned, but rather the way of living it in daily life."
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 12, 2008 (Zenit.org).- A representative of the Orthodox Church who addressed the world Synod of Bishops spoke of the Bishop of Rome as a sign of unity among Christians. Archimandrite Ignatios Sotiriadis, fraternal delegate from the Orthodox Church of Greece, spoke Saturday to the synod, which is focusing on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church. His address brought more applause than any other intervention in the first week of the synod. "Your Holiness," he said, "our society is tired and sick. It seeks but does not find! It drinks but its thirst is not quenched. Our society demands of us Christians -- Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Anglicans -- a common witness, a unified voice. Here lies our responsibility as pastors of the Churches in the 21st Century."
"Here," the Orthodox pastor continued, "is the primary mission of the First Bishop of Christianity, of him who presides in charity, and, above all, of a Pope who is Magister Theologiae: to be the visible and paternal sign of unity and to lead under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and according to Sacred Tradition, with wisdom, humility and dynamism, together with all the bishops of the world, fellow successors of the apostles, all humanity to Christ the redeemer."
"This is the profound desire of those who have the painful longing in their heart for the undivided Church, 'Una, Sancta, Catholica et Apostolica,'" he concluded. "But it is also the desire of those who, again today, in a world without Christ, fervently, but also with filial trust and faith, repeat the words of the apostles: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!'"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 8, 2008 (Zenit.org).- A general instruction on homilies and a jubilee year dedicated to the art of preaching were two ideas that emerged from the world Synod of Bishops after several prelates voiced a concern regarding the poor quality of sermons.The theme was addressed Monday by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the archbishop of Quebec and relator-general of the synod on the Word of God, under way in Rome through the end of October."Despite [...] that the homily was made subject of the [Second Vatican Council], we still feel great lack of satisfaction on the part of many faithful with regard to the ministry of preaching," said the cardinal.
He said this "lack of satisfaction explains why many Catholics turned toward other groups and religions."Cardinal Ouellet asked how homilists could be helped to "cultivate the calling to a decision of faith" while avoiding "the tendency toward moralism."Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra-Goulburn, Australia, took up the topic Tuesday with the proposal of compiling a General Homiletic Directory, along the lines of the General Catechetical Directory and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal."Such a directory would take stock of Catholic preaching as it now stands, and would do so with an eye to the history of Catholic preaching," he explained. "It would draw upon the experience and wisdom of the universal Church -- including the new communities and movements -- without stifling the genius of local churches or individual preachers."
"We need to be a good deal more systematic in teaching the 'ars predicandi' [the art of preaching] at this time, leaving less to chance or to whim; and a General Directory could help in this regard, specially in seminaries and houses of formation," he added.
Preaching Jubilee Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, vice president of the U.S. episcopal conference, said that "preaching in our day can lose its savor, become formulaic and uninspired, leaving the hearer empty." Conversely, he said, the homily should comfort, heal, bring hope and inspire, as well as teach and challenge.The bishop proposed that after the Church concludes the Jubilee Year of St. Paul, which concludes June 29, it should initiate a year dedicated on preaching. He said it would be an opportunity for "priests and deacons with their bishop to meet with the laity to listen to their struggles and to understand better how they might preach the Word in ways that relate to those struggles.
"A year dedicated to preaching, Bishop Kicanas said, could help the "new springtime for Christianity about which the Holy Father speaks [...] burst forth and bloom throughout the Church, renewing the Church, strengthening evangelization, intensifying catechesis and enhancing discipleship."
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 6, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The current economic crisis shows the importance of building our lives on the firm foundation of the Word, Benedict XVI affirmed on the first day of the synod of bishops.The Pope said this today as he offered a meditation to the 244 synod fathers gathered for the first full day of the assembly on the word of God in the life and mission of the Church."We see it now in the fall of the great banks," the Holy Father said. "This money disappears; it is nothing -- and in the same way, all these things, which lack a true reality to depend on, and are elements of a second order.
The word of God is the basis of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realists, we should count on this reality.""We should change our idea that matter, solid things, things we touch, are the most solid and secure reality," the Pontiff continued. He noted how Jesus spoke of the two possibilities of building a house on the sand or on a firm rock. "He who builds only on things that are visible and tangible, on success, a career, money -- he is building on sand," he said. "Apparently these are the true realities, but one day they will pass away."
Built on sand
The Bishop of Rome continued: "And in this way, all these things that do not have a true reality to count on. […] He who builds his house on these realities, on material things, on success, on everything that seems to be, builds on sand."Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality; it is stable like the heavens and more than the heavens. It is the reality. Therefore we should change our concept of realism. The realist is he who recognizes in the Word of God, in this reality apparently so fragile, the basis of everything."Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, afterward told the press that the Pope had invited his listeners to see economy and finances as a "penultimate reality."
"It is undeniable that other realities, when they are compared to the Word, reveal their limits," he explained. "They are truly penultimate, but not the final truth."The heart of the topic that the Pope addressed is not the current economic situation, but the importance of the Word of God in the path of man. And from this light, other dimensions are like clouds that show their flimsiness."
"VATICAN CITY, OCT. 5, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Synods are a fundamental part of the Church as they are a "coming together" of the people of God to be one in Christ, says Benedict XVI.The Pope said this today before praying the midday Angelus together with the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square, noting that earlier he had presided at the inaugural Mass of the 12th General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.The theme of the synod, which will be held at the Vatican, is “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."
"Synods are constitutive of the Church," the Holy Father affirmed. "They are a coming together from every people and culture to be one in Christ; they are a walking together behind him who said: 'I am the way, the truth and the life.'"Benedict XVI explained that the Greek word “sýnodos,” is composed of the preposition “syn” (with), and “odòs” (way, road). He said this "suggests the idea of 'taking the road together,' and this is precisely the experience of the people of God in salvation history."The Pontiff commented on the "value and function" of the gathering of bishops: "The Synod of Bishops aims to foster close union and collaboration between the Pope and the bishops of the whole world, to furnish direct and exact information about the situation and problems of the Church, to foster an agreement on doctrine and pastoral action and to consider topics of great importance and contemporary relevance.
"These different tasks are coordinated by a permanent secretariat, which works in direct and immediate dependence on the authority of the Bishop of Rome."Benedict XVI revealed the Scriptural theme will be considered by 253 synodal fathers: 51 from Africa, 62 from the Americas, 41 from Asia, 90 from Europe and 9 from Oceania, as well as "numerous experts and auditors, men and women, 'brother delegates' from the other Churches and ecclesial communities, and other special invitees will join them.""I invite all of you," he added, "to support the work of the synod with your prayer, especially invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, perfect disciple of the divine Word."
"Only Sincere Dialogue Could Guide the Path of the Church"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 1, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.
* * *Dear brothers and sisters,The respect and veneration for the Twelve, which Paul had always cultivated, did not diminish when he frankly defended the truth of the Gospel, which is nothing other than Jesus Christ, the Lord. Today, we wish to pause on two episodes that show this veneration, and at the same time, the freedom with which the Apostle addressed Cephas and the other apostles: the so-called Council of Jerusalem and the incident in Antioch of Syria, related in the Letter to the Galatians (cf. 2:1-10; 2:11-14).Every council and synod in the Church is an "event of the Spirit" and gathers together the solicitudes of the whole People of God. Those who participated in the Second Vatican Council experienced this in first person. Because of this, St. Luke, in informing us about the first council of the Church, which took place in Jerusalem, introduces in this way the letter the apostles sent in this circumstance to the Christian communities of the diaspora: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us" (Acts 15:28). The Spirit, who works in the whole Church, guides the apostles by the hand in the hour of taking on new paths or fulfilling their projects. He is the principal artisan of the building up of the Church.
Nevertheless, the assembly in Jerusalem took place in a moment of not little tension within the community of the origins. It regarded responding to the question of whether it was opportune to demand circumcision of the pagans who were converting to Jesus Christ, the Lord, or whether it was licit to leave them free of the Mosaic law, that is, free from the observation of the necessary norms for being a just man, obedient to the law, and above all, free of the norms relating to the purification rituals, pure and impure foods, and the Sabbath. St. Paul in Galatians 2: 1-10 also refers to the assembly in Jerusalem: Fourteen years after his encounter with the Risen One in Damascus -- we are in the second half of the decade of the 40s -- Paul leaves for Antioch of Syria with Barnabas, and also accompanied by Titus, his faithful coworker who, though of Greek origin, had not been obligated to be circumcised when he joined the Church. On this occasion, Paul presents to the Twelve, defined as those of repute, his gospel of freedom from the law (cf. Galatians 2:6).
In light of his encounter with the risen Christ, he had understood that in the moment of passing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, circumcision was no longer necessary for the pagans, nor the laws regarding food and regarding the Sabbath, as a sign of justice: Christ is our justice and "just" is all that which conforms to him. Other signs are not necessary in order to be just. In the Letter to the Galatians, he refers, with few words, to the development of the assembly: He enthusiastically recalls that the gospel of liberty from the law was approved by James, Cephas and John, "the pillars," who offered to him and to Barnabas the right hand in sign of ecclesial communion in Christ (Galatians 2:9). As we have noted, if for Luke the Council of Jerusalem expresses the action of the Holy Spirit, for Paul it represents the recognition of the liberty shared among all those who participated in it: liberty from the obligations deriving from circumcision and the law; this liberty for which "for freedom, Christ has set us free" and let us not submit again to the yoke of slavery (cf. Galatians 5:1).
The two forms with which Paul and Luke describe the Assembly of Jerusalem are united in the liberating action of the Holy Spirit, because "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom," he would say in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 3:17).For all that, as clearly appears in St. Paul's letters, Christian liberty is never identified with license or with the freewill to do what one wants. It is carried out in conformity with Christ, and therefore, in the authentic service of man, above all, of the most needy. Because of this, Paul's report of the assembly closed by recalling the recommendation the apostles gave him: "Only, we were to be mindful of the poor, which is the very thing I was eager to do" (Galatians 2:10).
Every council is born from the Church and returns to the Church: On that occasion it returned with the attention to the poor, which from Paul's various notes in his letters, are above all those of the Church of Jerusalem. In the concern for the poor, particularly testified to in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 8-9) and in the conclusion of the Letter to the Romans (cf. 15), Paul shows his fidelity to the decisions that matured during the assembly.Perhaps we are not yet able to fully understand the meaning Paul and his communities gave to the collection for the poor of Jerusalem. It was a totally new initiative in the panorama of religious activities. It was not obligatory, but free and spontaneous. All of the Churches founded by Paul in the West participated. The collection expressed the debt of these communities to the mother Church of Palestine, from which they had received the ineffable gift of the Gospel.
The value that Paul attributes to this gesture of participation is so great that he rarely calls it a "collection": It is rather "service," "blessing," "love," "grace," even "liturgy" (2 Corinthians 9).This last term, in particular, is surprising; it confers on the collection of money a value even of veneration: On one hand, it is a liturgical gesture or "service," offered by each community to God, and on the other, it is an action of love carried out in favor of the people. Love for the poor and divine liturgy go together; love for the poor is liturgy. These two horizons are present in every liturgy celebrated and lived in the Church, which by its nature opposes a separation between worship and life, between faith and works, between prayer and charity toward the brothers.
Thus the Council of Jerusalem is born to resolve the question of how to behave with the pagans who arrived to the faith, choosing freedom from circumcision and the observances imposed by the law, and it ends with the pastoral solicitude that places at the center faith in Christ Jesus and love for the poor of Jerusalem and the whole Church.The second episode is the well known incident in Antioch, in Syria, which allows us to understand the interior liberty that Paul enjoyed. How should one behave on the occasions of communion at the table between believers of Jewish origin and those of Gentile background? Here is revealed the other epicenter of the Mosaic observance: the distinction between pure and impure foods, which deeply divided the observant Hebrews from the pagans. Initially, Cephas, Peter, shared the table with both, but with the arrival of some Christians linked to James, "the brother of the Lord" (Galatians 1:19), Peter had begun to avoid contact at the table with pagans, so as not to scandalize those who continued observing the rules regarding food purity. And this choice was shared by Barnabas.
That choice deeply divided the Christians come from circumcision and those come from paganism.This behavior, which truly threatened the unity and liberty of the Church, brought a fiery reaction from Paul, who arrived to the point of accusing Peter and the rest of hypocrisy. "If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (Galatians 2:14). In reality, the concerns of Paul, on one hand, and Peter and Barnabas on the other, were different: For the latter, the separation of the pagans represented a way to teach and avoid scandalizing the believers coming from Judaism. For Paul, it constituted, on the other hand, the danger of a misunderstanding of the universal salvation in Christ offered as much to the pagans as to the Jews. If justification was brought about only in virtue of faith in Christ, of conformity with him, without any work of the law, then what sense was there in still observing the [rules on] purity of food when participating at the table? Very probably the perspectives of Peter and Paul were different: for the first, not losing the Jews who had embraced the Gospel, for the second, not diminishing the salvific value of the death of Christ for all believers.
It is interesting to note, but writing to the Christians of Rome a few years later, (around the middle of the decade of the 50s), Paul will find himself before a similar situation and he will ask the strong that they not eat impure food so as not to lose the weak or cause scandal for them. "It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble" (Romans 14:21). The incident in Antioch showed itself to be a lesson both for Peter and for Paul. Only sincere dialogue, open to the truth of the Gospel, could guide the path of the Church: "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). It is a lesson that we should also learn: With the distinct charisms entrusted to Peter and Paul, let us all be guided by the Spirit, trying to live in the liberty that finds its orientation in faith in Christ and is made tangible in service to our brothers.
It is essential to be ever more conformed to Christ. It is in this way that one is truly free, in this way the deepest nucleus of the law is expressed in us: the love of God and neighbor. Let us ask the Lord to teach us to share his sentiments, to learn from him the true liberty and evangelical love that embraces every human being.
VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is praying this month that the upcoming synod of bishops will help the truth of faith to be transmitted.The Apostleship of Prayer announced the general intention chosen by the Pope: "That the synod of bishops may help all those engaged in the service of the word of God to transmit the truth of faith courageously in communion with the entire Church."The 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will open with a Mass at St. Paul Outside the Walls on Oct. 5. It will run through Oct. 26 and focus on the theme "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."The Holy Father also chooses an apostolic intention for each month. In October, he will pray that "in this month dedicated to the missions, every Christian community may feel the need to participate in the universal mission with prayer, sacrifice and concrete help."