Clash of Religions a Contradiction in Terms, Says John Paul II

Address to Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 9, 2001 ( John Paul II made it clear today that the events unleashed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are not a «clash of religions,» because that would be a contradiction of the very essence of religion.

Since the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the Pope has preached the need for dialogue between cultures and religions. And he did so when he addressed the participants of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The Vatican organization this week brought together 15 cardinals, two patriarchs and 29 bishops to prepare a document on «The Spirituality of Dialogue.» The document, due out possibly in 2002, will offer guidelines to Catholics on dialogue with believers of other religions.

«It has been suggested that we are witnessing a veritable clash of religions,” the Holy Father. “However, as I have already said on numerous occasions, this would falsify religion itself.»

«Believers know that, far from doing evil, they are obliged to do good, to work to alleviate human suffering, to build together a just and harmonious world,» the Holy Father clarified.

«If it is imperative for the international community to foster good relations between people belonging to different ethnic and religious traditions, it is all the more urgent for believers themselves to foster relations characterized by openness and trust, and leading to common concern for the well-being of the whole human family,» John Paul II said.

In «the climate of increased cultural and religious pluralism, which is expected to mark the society of the new millennium, it is obvious that [interreligious] dialogue will be especially important in establishing a sure basis for peace and warding off the dread specter of those wars of religion that have so often bloodied human history,» the Pontiff emphasized. «The name of the one God must become increasingly what it is: a name of peace and a summons to peace.

«We know, and we experience every day, how difficult it is to achieve this goal. We realize, in fact, that peace will not come as the result of our own efforts; it is not something that the world can give. It is a gift from the Lord and, to receive it, we have to prepare our hearts. When conflicts arise, peace can only come through a process of reconciliation, and this requires both humility and generosity.»

John Paul II concluded: «When we Christians consider the nature of God, as revealed in Scripture and, above all, in Jesus Christ, we realize that the communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the perfect and eminent model of dialogue among human beings.»

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