VATICAN CITY, JUNE 12, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The intercultural dialogue with Islam took an artistic form in the Vatican with a show of whirling dervishes from Konya, Turkey.
These mystical dancers, typical of Sufism, a mystical tradition within Islam, were presented today in the Chancery Palace at the Vatican.
The performance was organized by the Turkish Embassy to the Holy See and the Pontifical Council for Culture to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the birth of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi (1207-1273), considered one the most important poets of Sufi mysticism.
Muammer Dogan Akdur, Turkish ambassador to the Holy See, introduced the event by noting what he called an excellent relationship between his country and the Holy See after Benedict XVI’s visit to Turkey last November.
Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, explained in his address that “on the intercultural scene, which frequently takes an interreligious dimension, we have taken this meaningful opportunity to meet: the 800 years since the birth of Meviana Celaleddin Rumi, one of the greatest Persian poets, one of the finest heralds of monastic Sufism, and above all, the founder of the famous Mawlawiyah Confraternity whose members are called Whirling Dervishes in the Western world.”
“[This is] an encounter between cultures to celebrate the poet Rumi and his sublime art, which is capable of transporting us to lofty levels of lyrical verse, where man can find again the purity of his feelings and the beautiful words of dialogue between different civilizations and religious beliefs,” explained the cardinal, who is also president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Cardinal Poupard continued: “Music and dance are universal languages that nourish the spirit and make us experience the beauty of cultural exchange and of the dialogue between cultures.
“The chanting and rotation with a progressive increase of rhythm and speed show the artist with one hand palm up and the other hand palm down, as if wanting to unite heaven and earth; the man, the dervish, presents himself as a union between what is finite and what is infinite.
“The drum marks the rhythm in an incisive manner and the flute marks the turns and envelopes the atmosphere in a spiritual exercise directed towards a contact with the Divine.
“Rumi defines the role of the mystical poet comparing it with a flute: The mouthpiece is the mouth of God; the divine breath/wind goes through the flute, that is the body of the poet, and the opening is the poet’s mouth.”
This event was attended by members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, the media — including ZENIT — and other Vatican figures of the world of culture and interreligious dialogue.