ROME, MARCH 30, 2009 ( The Church is eager to engage in interreligious dialogue but also intent on seeing a reciprocal response to its efforts, says the Vatican official in charge of relations with non-Christian creeds.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, affirmed this Thursday during an address on religious liberty and reciprocity as proposed by the recent magisterium. He was speaking at a two-day conference on religious liberty and human rights, hosted by Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

The cardinal contended that this theme is of particular importance due to a lack of religious freedom in some countries, where things such as promoting the Bible or building new Christian churches is prohibited.

The proposal of reciprocity by the Catholic Church "appears simultaneously at a time when the subject of dialogue begins to take shape," he said.

Cardinal Tauran went back to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council to show the Church's concept of reciprocity. He cited both "Gaudium et Spes" and "Nostra Aetate," documents that speak of the Church's duty to respond to the perennial questions of humanity and propose mutual understanding and knowledge in relations with Islam and Judaism.

The Vatican official then considered teachings of the recent popes, starting with Pope John XXIII in his encyclical "Pacem in Terris," where the importance of "reciprocity of rights and duties between different people" and of "mutual collaboration between human beings" was stressed.

Pope Paul VI, in "Ecclesiam Suam," affirmed that dialogue on the part of the Church is always possible, the cardinal said. He recalled how the Pope affirmed the Church would never cease to engage in dialogue, but would benevolently accept "reciprocal and loyal respect."

The White House

Cardinal Tauran suggested that the synthesis of Pope John Paul II's thought on interreligious dialogue can be found in a 1985 address at the White House. There, the cardinal said, the Polish Pontiff noted that "respect and dialogue call for reciprocity in all fields, above all in regard to fundamental liberties and, more particularly, religious liberty. They favor peace and understanding between peoples, and help to resolve together the problems of men and women today."

And the current Bishop of Rome, the cardinal concluded, has maintained continuity with his predecessors, though perhaps emphasizing the need for reciprocity even more, particularly between the Church and Islam.

The Vatican official cited Benedict XVI's call to affirm the "values of reciprocal respect and peace" at an address to the Muslim community in Germany in 2005.

The pontifical council president contended that there is still much the Church can say about reciprocity. He called for pinning down the "authentic meaning" the Church gives to the concept in interreligious dialogue and indicating "clear norms that specify realms of applicability for such a principle."