Cardinal Tauran: Essence of Islam Is Being Disfigured

Says Extremists Act Without Reason, Meaning

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The president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue believes the Pope’s actions promoting interreligious dialogue in Turkey were both simple and clear.

In an interview with ZENIT earlier this month following the Pope’s visit to Turkey, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran shed light on interreligious dialogue among Muslims, Christians and Jews, and explained how youth, if properly trained, can offer hope for increasing understanding among religions.

Reflecting on what he considers the biggest challenge in dialogue with Muslims, the dicastery president said, «The problem is that the essence of Islam is being disfigured. What the extremists are doing has no reason, has no meaning.»

«It is evil, not even like animals,» he said, «Animals don’t even behave like that.»

«We have to recuperate the sense of life. The dignity of the person, the sense of life and peace,» the Vatican official declared.

When asked for his reaction to the Pope’s visit to Turkey, he noted it was «very significant» for him personally, especially being responsible for interreligious dialogue.

«I think the Pope has been very clear. Simple and clear,» he said.

«What is important to make people understand,» he said, «is that we cannot be happy the one without the others. And never the one against the others.»

Responding to how dialogue with Muslims was promoted during the visit, the French cardinal stressed, «There was dialogue, but it’s very discreet, I should say.»

«Because there’s a tiny Christian community,» he noted, the dialogue is not as obvious, but it still exists. «It’s just not as elaborated like in Europe or the Middle East.»

He said Pope Francis having met with the Chief Rabbi in Turkey could be seen as increased interreligious dialogue with Jews. However, he added that even with the Pope’s efforts, «It’s not easy to make the three monotheistic religions be in dialogue.»

New youth

Reflecting on the recently held Summit on Christian-Muslim relations at the Vatican, he noted he appreciated the reflections on the necessity of education.

The Christian-Muslim Summit was held in Rome Dec. 2-4, and gathered Christians, both Catholic and Anglican Episcopal, and Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, as well as religious leaders and scholars from around the world. Their goal was to foster interreligious and intercultural relationships and address issues of conflict, in particular between the followers of both religions. 

Cardinal Tauran headed the Catholic delegation, while the Anglican Episcopal delegation was led by the Right Reverend John Bryson Chane, eighth bishop of the Anglican Episcopal Diocese of Washington and senior advisor on Interreligious Dialogue to Washington National Cathedral.

Prince El Hasan bin Talal of Jordan and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies Amman Jordan led the Sunni delegation and Ayatollah Sayyed Professor Mustafa Mohaghegh Damad, director of Islamic Studies at the Iran Academy of Sciences, led the Shia Delegation.

The quality of the exchange of views at the summit, and the depth of the text on which participants elaborated were meaningful, the cardinal stressed, explaining points offered «were new» and «constitute new and very important developments.»

«We haven’t been able to transmit values to the young generation. It’s almost akin to having builders without mortar,» he stated, expressing, «This is a tragedy.»

Nevertheless, he stressed, «Family, school/university, and temples, churches and mosques are the fundamental institutions where we can make a new youth emerge.”

«Because young people are accustomed to living in a pluralistic world,» the cardinal suggested, «It’s easier for children to understand and accept each other than it was 10 years ago.»

«We live in a global world. Boys and girls who are six years old know or partake in interreligious dialogue in their own way. Now they meet Jews and Muslims since kindergarten. So they begin to practice interreligious dialogue,» he said.

Twenty years ago, Cardinal Tauran noted, «this was unthinkable.»


On ZENIT’s Web page:

Information on Christian-Muslim Summit:

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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