Cardinal: Mercy Key for Interreligious Dialogue

Says Concept Underlies Spiritualities of Monotheistic Religions

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 3, 2008 ( The rediscovery of divine mercy, which Pope John Paul II promoted, is key for interreligious dialogue, contended the archbishop of Lyon, France.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin affirmed this today during his address at the 1st World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, under way in Rome at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

Mercy is a “theme of primary importance in our dialogue with those of other religions,” the cardinal affirmed, analyzing in the first place the implications it has in the relationship with Jews.

“The Jews know they have been chosen by God, in virtue of the fulfillment of a mission: to be servants of the mercy of God among all nations,” Cardinal Barbarin said. “The reason for this choice is not due to the qualities that distinguish them from other nations; this will always be kept in the secret of God. But this choice gives the Jewish people a particular place and imposes upon them a great spiritual demand.”

“For us Christians,” he continued, “who inherit the mission entrusted to the holy people, by baptism, which makes us members of the body of Christ, we receive the ‘israelitica dignitas,’ we should continue with the work of the Good Samaritan, who bent down before a humanity prostrate on the side of the road like a cadaver.”

With Islam

Cardinal Barbarin also affirmed the importance of divine mercy in dialogue with Muslims.

“It is impressive to see that among the 99 divine names, the most used are precisely ‘the Very Merciful’ — Ar-Rahman — and the ‘All-Merciful’ — Ar-Rahim — always attributed to Allah,” the cardinal said. “These two names are repeated twice in the first Sura of the Koran — the Fatiha — that the Muslim repeats 17 times every day during his five daily prayers.”

In the light of this underlying spirituality, proper to the monotheistic religions, and drawing from the relationship the cardinal has formed with the Islamic community in Lyon, he stated, “We confirm that the notion of tolerance, ceaselessly used intentionally in interreligious dialogue, does not mean much; we must move from tolerance to mutual esteem, and if the Lord gives us the grace, to admiration.”

To illustrate this sentiment, Cardinal Barbarin mentioned “the interior shock” that Blessed Charles de Foucauld felt when he saw “the fervor of the Muslims.”

“He understood immediately what he had lost in distancing himself from the faith,” the cardinal recalled, “and this was the beginning of his return to Christ.”

“I have the conviction,” Cardinal Barbarin affirmed, “that only a humble interior attitude, in which each one is attentive to receiving all the gifts that God wants to give, will permit us to be authentic servants of his mercy, servants of the joy in the hearts of man.”

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