Papal Message on Cultural and Religious Dialogue

«Address the Great Challenges That Mark the Post-Modern Age»

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2008 ( Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the presidents of the pontifical councils for interreligious dialogue and culture on the occasion of the Dec. 4 study day on «Cultures and Religions in Dialogue.» The Holy See published the message today.

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To Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue


Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi
President of the Pontifical Council for Culture

I desire first of all to express my heartfelt satisfaction for the joint initiative of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for Culture, which organized a Day of Study dedicated to the theme: «Cultures and Religions in Dialogue,» as the Holy See’s participation in the European Union’s initiative, approved in December 2006, to declare 2008 «European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.» Together with the presidents of the aforementioned pontifical councils, I cordially greet the cardinals, my venerated brothers in the episcopate, the most excellent members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, as well as the representatives of the various religions participants in this significant meeting.

For many years now Europe has been conscious of its essential cultural unity, despite the constellation of national cultures that have shaped it. It is good to underline: Contemporary Europe, peering into the third millennium, is the fruit of two millennia of civilization. The latter sinks its roots both in the enormous and ancient patrimony of Athens and Rome, as well as above all in the fruitful terrain of Christianity, which has revealed itself capable of creating new cultural patrimonies receiving the original contribution of each civilization. The new humanism, which arose from the spread of the evangelical message, exalts all the elements worthy of the human person and his transcendent vocation, purifying them from the dross that obfuscates the genuine face of mankind created in the image and likeness of God. Thus, Europe appears to us today as a precious fabric, whose weave is made up of the principles and values of the Gospel, while the national cultures have been able to address an immense variety of perspectives which manifest the religious, intellectual, technical, scientific and artistic capacities of «Homo Europeus.» In this connection, we can state that Europe has had and still has a cultural influence on the totality of the human species, and cannot fail to feel particularly responsible not only for its own future, but also that of the whole of humanity.

In the present context, in which ever more frequently our contemporaries ask themselves essential questions on the meaning of life and its value, it seems more important than ever to reflect on the ancient roots from which has flowed an abundant sap for centuries. Intercultural and interreligious dialogue emerges as a priority for the European Union and is of interest transversally to the sectors of culture and communication, of education and science, of migrations and minorities, youth and labor.

Once diversity is received as a positive fact, it is necessary to make persons accept not only the existence of the other’s culture, but also the desire to be enriched with it. Addressing Catholics, my predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, enunciated his profound conviction in these terms: «The Church must enter into dialogue with the world in which she lives. The Church becomes word, the Church becomes message, the Church becomes conversation» («Ecclesiam Suam,» No. 67). We live in what is usually called a «plural world,» characterized by the speed of communications, the mobility of peoples and their economic, political and cultural interdependence. Precisely in this, perhaps dramatic hour, though unfortunately many Europeans seem to forget Europe’s Christian roots, the latter are alive and should trace the path and nourish the hope of millions of citizens who share the same values.

Believers should always be willing to promote initiatives of intercultural and interreligious dialogue, to stimulate collaboration on topics of mutual interest, such as the dignity of the human person, the quest for the common good, the building of peace and development. With this intention, the Holy See wished to give particular relevance to its own participation in high-level dialogue on understanding between religions and cultures and on cooperation for peace, in the framework of the 62nd U.N. General Assembly (Oct. 4-5, 2007). To be authentic, dialogue must avoid yielding to relativism and syncretism and be animated by sincere respect for others and by a generous spirit of reconciliation and fraternity.

I encourage all those dedicated to the building of a friendly and sympathetic Europe ever more faithful to its roots and, in particular, I exhort believers to contribute not only to zealously protecting the cultural and spiritual heritage that distinguishes them and forms an integral part of their history, but also to commit themselves increasingly to seek new ways to adequately address the great challenges that mark the post-modern age. Among these, I limit myself to mention the defense of man’s life in all its phases, the safeguarding of all the rights of the person and the family, the construction of a just and sympathetic world, respect of creation, and intercultural and interreligious dialogue. In this perspective, I wish for the success of the study day planned and invoke on all the participants the abundant blessings of God.

In the Vatican, Dec. 3, 2008


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