L'Osservatore Editor Notes Continuity in Assisi Events

Says Interpretations of Syncretism in ’86 Missed Pope’s Point

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ROME, OCT. 26, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Thursday’s gathering of religious leaders, non-believers and Benedict XVI is in continuity with the 1986 event it is commemorating, even if interpretations are different, according to the editor of L’Osservatore Romano.

Giovanni Maria Vian spoke with ZENIT about the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World, convoked by the German Pontiff to mark the 25th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s initiative.

«I don’t think there is a real contrast between 1986 and 2011; I think it is more about interpretations,» Vian said. «If from the 1986 event, it was concluded that all religions are the same, that a creed is indifferent and that the Christian choice is the same as the others — that had nothing to do with John Paul II’s initiative.»

Vian noted that Christian thinkers from the first centuries already affirmed that «truth is in the Logos, in Christ, and it is present mysteriously in all areas of the universe.» He recalled the «theory of the ‘seeds of the Logos,’ stemming from Stoic thought.»

To simplify, he continued, «fragments of the one truth» are «spread mysteriously everywhere.»

«This is what enabled Jesuits in the 17th century, missionaries in India, Japan and China … to find small parts of the truth also in these very ancient religious traditions, which had never known Christ,» Vian reflected. «And on this basis, a theologian such as Karl Rahner spoke, in the 20th century, of ‘anonymous Christians.'»

Returning to Assisi, the director of the Vatican newspaper said that «one understands that the ways of salvation can be many because no one knows God’s designs. The traditional teaching of the Catholic Church continues to be valid, confirmed by Vatican II,» and in 2000, by Dominus Iesus, a «summary of the affirmations of Vatican II.»

«Benedict XVI repeats it continually, in coherence with the whole Catholic tradition, uninterrupted and alive,» Vian stated.

Thus, the editor classified an interpretation of syncretism as a mistake: «It is necessary to know somewhat the cultural formation, the episcopal and later papal teaching of Karol Wojtyla, not forgetting that, at the end of 1981, the Pope appointed Joseph Ratzinger as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, keeping him in this post despite the repeated requests of the cardinal, who wished to return to his studies in Bavaria. Taking all this into account, it seems to me to be really impossible that there was syncretism in John Paul II’s intentions, when he convoked the Assisi meeting in 1986.»

And Vian reminded that «Assisi is not just an ecumenical meeting. Ecumenism is an irreversible path, as Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI have said. (…)

«Assisi is not just an inter-Christian meeting, but a meeting with the other religions, without a syncretism that mixes everything indistinctly.»

Vian proposed that Benedict XVI’s initiative to convoke a Year of Faith highlights what is in the Pope’s heart: «Christians, today, are concerned with many things but they run the risk of losing sight of the essential.»

«In Benedict XVI’s recent trip to his homeland he said it clearly,» Vian suggested. «The Pope knows perfectly that the Church in Germany has extraordinary structures, he knows that it helps many local churches in the world, but he aspired to more.»

As the Pope wrote on March 10, 2009, the editor recalled: «The flame of faith can be extinguished even in countries of ancient Christian tradition. A faith that is not ideology and not even a morality.»

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