Pope Francis stressed the need for lasting and continuous commitment to Muslim-Christian dialogue “in order to ensure we do not find ourselves unprepared in various situations and in different context.”
The Holy Father met on Saturday with participants of a meeting organized by the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI) which commemorated the Institute’s founding.
The participants, who met for two days at the Pontifical Urbanian University, reflected on the theme: “Studying and Understanding the Religion of the Other: Towards Mutual Recognition between Religions an Cultures in Today’s World.”
In his address, the Pope emphasized the need for sufficient education that would allow for a growth in mutual knowledge among religions. However, he also cautioned participants to not fall prey to a syncretism that while conciliatory, is “ultimately empty and a harbinger of a totalitarianism without values.”
“A comfortable and accommodating approach, ‘which says “yes” to everything in order to avoid problems’, ends up being ‘a way of deceiving others and denying them the good which we have been given to share generously with others'”, the Pope said. “This invites us, first of all, to return to the basics.”
Prejudice and falsehoods, he continued, can be overcome if dialogue starts from the “presumption of our common human nature. The Holy Father said that now more than ever, there is a need for an institute that is dedicated in the research and formation of dialogue with Muslims.
“The most effective antidote to any form of violence, the Holy Father noted, “is education in the discovery and acceptance of difference as richness and fruitfulness.”
“Islamic-Christian dialogue, in a special way, requires patience and humility accompanied by detailed study, as approximation and improvisation can be counterproductive and or even the cause of unease and embarrassment. There is a need for lasting and continuous commitment in order to ensure we do not find ourselves unprepared in various situations and in different contexts.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis praised the Institute’s work while expressing his hope that they increasingly become “a point of reference for the formation of Christians who work in the field of interreligious dialogue.”
He encouraged the members of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies to never “betray the primary task of listening and dialogue.” This task, he concluded, is “based on clear identities and the keen, patient and rigorous search for truth and beauty, which are placed in the hearts of every man and woman and truly visible in every authentic religious expression.”