Mary: Mother of Interreligious Dialogue?

Archbishop Gioia Calls the Blessed Virgin a «Living Catechism»

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ROME, MAY 27, 2003 ( Because of her special place in Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Mary is regarded as a meeting point in interreligious dialogue.

So says Archbishop Francesco Gioia, president of the Holy See’s institution for pilgrimages to the See of Peter, in his book «Mary, Mother of the Word, Model of Dialogue Between Religions,» published by Città Nuova.

«While for Christians Mary is the Mother of God and Mother of the Church, for the Jews she is ‘the exalted daughter of Zion,'» the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, Cardinal Francis Arinze, says in the book’s introduction.

«For the Muslims, Mary is the Mother of Jesus,» the cardinal continues. «The Koran mentions her 34 times. Moreover, she is a ‘sign for creatures’ (Sura 21, 91), and is presented as a model believer.»

«Although Jews and Muslims do not accept the central truth of the divinity of Jesus Christ, they honor Mary greatly,» Cardinal Arinze says.

In «many other religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, even though there is no explicit reference to Mary, analogies can be found between the Mother of Jesus and relevant persons in the ambit of their creed,» he notes. «The feminine substratum, present in some way in every religion, must not be underestimated.»

As Archbishop Gioia, former secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, explains, «There are at least two reasons that motivate Mary’s role in the ecumenical and interreligious dialogue: her de facto presence in different religions and her figure, as model of faith.»

«Mary has a special place in religions stemming from Abraham, as, for example, Judaism, Islam and some movements of contemporary origin that express themselves using Christian language,» Archbishop Gioia continues.

«Moreover, Mary is the most exalted example of a person of faith and is in a position to offer valid elements for a fundamental discernment of Christian identity in religious pluralism,» the author says.

In this connection, Mary is seen as a compendium or living and personal synthesis of the Christian mystery. «She is the icon of the mystery,» the archbishop writes, «a complete image of the concrete realization of the whole mystery of the covenant … the micro-history of salvation.»

Thus, he adds, in interreligious dialogue «Mary can serve the function of a ‘living catechism,’ which exhibits intuitively the self-understanding of the Church, even more, of man on the way to salvation.»

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