Relativism, Cultural Leveling Seen as Double Danger

Holy See Addresses 6th Islamic Congress of Culture Ministers

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BAKU, Azerbaijan, NOV. 2, 2009 ( Relativism might enable diverse cultures to coexist, but it undercuts dialogue. On the other hand, cultural leveling eliminates the differences that make a people unique.

A delegation from the Holy See cautioned against both dangers at the 6th Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers, held Oct. 13-15 in Baku.

Father Laurent Mazas, from the Pontifical Council for Culture, addressed the meeting.

Citing Benedict XVI, he noted the “explosion of worldwide interdependence,” which has increased the possibilities of interaction between cultures, and given rise to “new openings for intercultural dialogue.”

In “Caritas in Veritate,” the Holy See representative continued, the Pope “denounces the double danger generated by the ‘commercialization of cultural exchange’: that of cultural eclecticism and that of cultural leveling.”

“Relativism,” he explained, “more underhand than indifference and intolerance, represents a major obstacle to dialogue between cultures. On the social plane, if cultural relativism has the effect that cultural groups coexist side by side, nevertheless it doesn’t enable an authentic dialogue.

“However, there’s another danger: that of cultural leveling which results in the standardization of behaviors and lifestyles and the loss of profound significance of cultures of different nations and of the traditions of the various peoples.”

In this context, Father Mazas affirmed, “[T]he big monotheist religions represent a contribution to the reflection on intercultural dialogue, and help its promotion.”

This contribution comes in part, the priest explained, from the religions’ view of the person, as a creature of God.

This vision “enables them to distinguish in man what is a matter of culture and what has to do with universal human nature.”

Father Mazas stated that intercultural dialogue — “strengthened by its religious dimension” — calls for “reference to reason and assessment of cultures regarding their harmony with a transcendental nature.”

“Though man lives a real human life thanks to culture,” he said, “nevertheless he isn’t a mere cultural statistic.”

And, the Holy See representative, concluded: “There is no other road but that of fraternity, and therefore of truthful dialogue, to offer the men and women of our time an authentic service of reconciliation and peace.”

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