Rector Sees the Keys to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations

Bishop Fisichella Emphasizes Respect and Religious Liberty

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FLORENCE, Italy, MAY 8, 2003 ( The much feared «clash of civilizations» can be overcome if there is respect for others and if religious liberty is guaranteed for all creeds, says a university rector.

The key lies «in complementarity not in competition,» Bishop Rino Fisichella, rector of the Lateran University of Rome, said Wednesday when taking part in a discussion here with Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington, author of «The Clash of Civilizations.»

Bishop Fisichella explained that in the relation between Christianity and Islam, «we have passed from a state of indifference to one of confrontation, which emphasizes the differences. But the Catholic Church has understood the importance of dialogue and religious liberty.»

«To the degree that other religions also follow the way of respect and religious liberty, the clouds of conflict will be dissipated,» the bishop said. «It is an illusion to share the thesis, according to which only if religions are secularized can they maintain good relations of coexistence.»

In fact, the «truth is the opposite: they are saved only if they remain faithful to themselves, and if there is no homologation, as religions are not all the same,» he added.

Bishop Fisichella drew a distinction between tolerance — «a category that does not belong to us, as is tends to make things uniform» — and respect, which takes account of each person as a person.

The challenge lies in making every possible effort so that «peoples can live in complementarity, not competition,» he said.

«It is a difficult way, but it can become the key» to overcome conflicts, the bishop told the Italian Catholic agency SIR.

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