By Anita S. Bourdin
CREMA, Italy, MARCH 3, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople has been honored by a new foundation established to build bridges between cultures and religions.
The Crema-based Cardinal Poupard Foundation chose the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople as the first recipient of the “Cardinal Poupard Prize,” which was awarded to him today in Monaco.
The Orthodox patriarch was recognized for his action and teaching to safeguard creation.
Cardinal Paul Poupard, whom the foundation is named after, spoke with ZENIT about the significance of the award and the goals of the organization he initiated.
The cardinal, who formerly served as president of both the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, underlined the “exemplary action” of the Orthodox patriarch.
The prize acknowledges his efforts to preserve the environment, coupled with his particular evangelical vision of creation.
The patriarch has affirmed that “to safeguard the planet” implies a “cultural renewal” and the expression of a “new solidarity between the Creator, creatures and creation.”
For the past 15 years, he has organized multi-disciplinary symposiums worldwide on the theme “Religion, Science and the Environment.”
On the occasion of one of them, on June 10, 2002, Bartholomew I signed a joint declaration with John Paul II in Venice’s Ducal Palace.
This dialogue between cultures and religions is something that the foundation aims to foster, Cardinal Poupard explained to ZENIT.
The cardinal, who continues to live in Rome and is active in the Vatican, added that it encourages dialogue especially by creating links between universities in different countries, focusing on educating youth.
“Confrontations happen because the other is not known,” he pointed out.
The prelate affirmed that “at present we are facing a new situation and we must find means of coming closer so that we get to know one another in order that others will recognize themselves in the image I have of them and that I will recognize myself in the idea they have of me.”
He identified two dangers to dialogue: on one hand, “being shut-in on oneself, isolation and even violence,” and on the other, “skepticism.”
Cardinal Poupard underlined the need to ask the question: “How can one dialogue if there are not a set of fundamental common values as an invariable, namely, the human being, as Paul VI would say, the whole man and all men, and respect for the human person?”
He pointed out that the key to transmit this “invariable” is education. “There is no culture without memory, and memory is transmitted through education,” the prelate said.
The cardinal decided with a group of friends to begin the foundation named in his honor to continue his work and teaching.
To foster dialogue, the foundation is helping to create a “Religion and Public Space” chair in the French Senate, and it has contributed to the translation of the “Dictionary of Religions” into Arabic.
The foundation’s projects “are abundant,” Cardinal Poupard said, mentioning, for example, the relations established with St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University, in Moscow.