On Thursday, Pope Francis received in audience the participants in a Symposium promoted by the Organization of American States and the Institute of Inter-Religious dialogue of Buenos Aires on the theme: “America in Dialogue: Our Common Home” (Augustinianum, Rome, September 7-8).
Here is a ZENIT translation of the Pope’s address:
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Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am happy to welcome all of you, who are taking part in this first meeting: “America in Dialogue: Our Common Home.” I thank the Organization of American States and the Institute of Inter-Religious Dialogue of Buenos Aires, as well as the collaboration of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue for their efforts to make this event a reality. I know that you are working jointly on the project to establish an Institute of Dialogue that embraces the whole American continent. To work together is a laudable initiative and I invite you to go forward for the good of the whole world, and not just of America.
This first meeting has focused on the study of the Encyclical Laudato Si’. In it I wished to call attention on the importance to love, respect and safeguard our common home. We cannot but admire the beauty and harmony that exists in all of Creation; it is the gift that God makes to us so that we can find Him and contemplate Him in his work. It is important to wager for an “integral ecology,” in which respect for creatures values the richness they enclose in themselves and puts the human being at the summit of Creation.
Religions have a very important role in this task of promoting care and respect of the environment, especially in this integral ecology. Faith in God leads us to know Him in His Creation, which is fruit of His Love for us, and it calls us to look after and protect nature. For this <to happen> it is necessary that religions promote a true education, at all levels, which will help to spread a responsible and attentive attitude to the exigencies of the care of our world; and, in a special way, to protect, promote and defend human rights (cf. Encyclical Laudato Si’). For example, an interesting thing would be if each one of the participants were to ask himself how this has been incorporated in his country, his city, his environment, or in his religious belief, in his religious community, and in schools. I believe that we are still at the level of “nursery school” in this. In other words, responsibility must be incorporated not only as a subject but as awareness, in an integral education.
Our religious traditions are a necessary source of inspiration to foster a culture of encounter. Inter-religious cooperation, based on the promotion of sincere and respectful dialogue, is essential. If there is no mutual respect there will be no religious dialogue. I remember that in my city, when I was a child, some parish priest ordered the burning of the Evangelicals’ tents and, thank God, this has been surmounted. If there is no mutual respect, there will be no inter-religious dialogue; it is the basis to be able to walk together and address challenges. This dialogue is founded on one’s identity and in mutual trust, which is born when one is able to recognize the other as gift of God and accept that he has something to say to one. The other has something to say to one. Every encounter with the other is a small seed that is deposited; if it is watered with assiduous and respectful treatment, based on the truth, it will grow into a luxuriant tree, with a multitude of fruits, where all can take shelter and be nourished, and no one is excluded and in it, all will be part of a common project, uniting their efforts and aspirations.
In this path of dialogue, we are witnesses of God’s goodness, who has given us life; the latter is sacred and must be respected, not scorned. A believer is a defender of Creation and of life; he cannot remain silent or cross his arms in face of so many rights that are annihilated with impunity. The man and woman of faith are called to defend life in all its stages, physical integrity and fundamental freedoms, such as the freedom of conscience, of thought, of expression and of religion. It is a duty we have, as we believe that God is the architect of Creation and we are instruments in His hands so that all men and women are respected in their dignity and rights, and are able to fulfill themselves as persons.
The world is constantly observing us, believers, to see what our attitude is to our common home and human rights. Moreover, it asks us to collaborate among ourselves and with men and women of good will, who do not profess a religion, so that we give effective answers to the many plagues of our world, such as war and hunger, the misery that afflicts millions of people, the environmental crisis, violence, corruption and moral degradation, the crisis of the family, of the economy and, above all, the lack of hope. Today’s world suffers and needs our joint help, and so it is asking for it. Do you realize that this is light years away from any proselyticing idea?
We see with pain, moreover, that sometimes the name of religion is used to commit atrocities, such as terrorism, and sow fear and violence and, consequently, religions are pointed out as responsible for the evil that surrounds us. It is necessary to condemn jointly and emphatically these abominable actions and to keep one’s distance from all that seeks to poison minds and divide and destroy coexistence. It is necessary to show the positive values that are inherent in our religious traditions to make a solid contribution to hope. Important, therefore, are meetings such as the present one. We must share sorrows as well as hopes, to be able to walk together, taking care of one another and also of Creation, in defense and promotion of the common good. How good it would be to leave the world better than we found it. This is lovely. In a dialogue a couple of years ago, an enthusiast for the care of our common home, said: we must leave our children a better world. But will there me children? answered another.
Finally, this meeting is taking place in the Year dedicated to the Jubilee of Mercy, which has a universal value that embraces both believers as well as non believers, because God’s merciful love has no limits: not of culture, or race, or language or religion: it embraces all those suffering in body and in spirit. Moreover, God’s love envelops the whole of His Creation and we, as believers, have the responsibility to defend, look after and cure the one who needs it. May this circumstance of the Jubilee Year be an occasion to open subsequent areas of dialogue, to go out to encounter suffering brothers, and also to struggle so that our common house is a home where we all have a place and no one is excluded or eliminated. Each human being is the greatest gift God can give us.
I invite you to work and to stimulate initiatives jointly, so that we all become conscious of the need to look after and protect our common home, building a world that is ever more human, where no one is superfluous and where all of us are necessary. And I ask God to bless us all.
[Original text: Spanish] [Translation by ZENIT]