Address at World Summit of Religious Leaders

Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran

23 October 2010 

             The subject that brings us together – “Globalization, religions, traditional values in service to the world” – caught the attention of Pope Benedict XVI who, in sending me to you, not only desires to assure you of his prayerful good wishes for the success of your work, but also to express publicly his interest in your reflections. Such an interest is not surprising since the Pope, in his last Encyclical, Caritas in veritate, wrote: “The truth of globalization as a process and its fundamental ethical criterion are given by the unity of the human family and its development towards what is good”. And, while inviting men and women today to live it “in relational terms, in terms of communion and the sharing of goods” (n. 42), he recommended respect for the principle of subsidiarity which “is particularly well-suited to managing globalization and directing it towards authentic human development” (n. 57).

The interreligious assembly that we form is a strong symbol of this possibility – in reality a vocation – that believers have of living the diversity in unity, in the awareness that “God gives us the strength to fight and to suffer for love of the common good, because he is our All, our greatest hope.” (n. 78)

1. An Observation

An observation is necessary: the globalized world in which we live is not automatically fraternal. The most we can say is that it is an ambiguous world. It has reached magnificent achievements (I refer myself to scientific progress, generalized education, all that concerns the fundamental human rights…), but it suffers also from obvious failures (poverty, pandemics, wars, fragility of the family, waste of natural resources…). This has resulted, for many people, in disillusionment, verging on real pessimism.

Furthermore, it is a world organized without God (sometimes even against God!). But – and this is the paradox – after a century of atheistic propaganda in Central and Eastern Europe, the end of cultural unanimity, the invasion of relativism, the development of pluralism and the relegation of religions to a quarantine in the private sphere, “Religion” has become in a few years an inevitable factor in public dialogue. The death of God had been inflicted on us and now God is “taking his revenge!” (Kepel).

Indeed, many people have forgotten that man is the only creature that ponders on “the meaning of meaning” (Paul Ricoeur). It is conscience (the ability to reflect on his destiny, the meaning of life and death) that distinguishes him from the realm of vegetables and animals. Today as yesterday, man asks essential questions. He asks them in the context of pluralistic, religiously indifferent societies. But like his ancestors, he still looks to Heaven for answers!

2. A Mission

We, the believers, belong to this world. We share the trials and the hopes of our brothers and sisters in humanity. It is in this world that God has planted us to be fruitful!

I am wondering if we are sufficiently aware that many men and women of our times, even unknowingly, seek God or wander the roads of the virtual world, often overcome by physical or moral destitution or who struggle with their own identity, in order to discover their personhood and their dignity that come from their Creator. Yes, we have a MISSION: to reveal (unveil) to those living today that they are “inhabited” by God who loves them and wants their happiness.

We must do this in relation to our respective religious traditions, with respect for each one’s conscience, in the practice of an interreligious dialogue that avoids two pitfalls: relativism and intolerance. But we can do much together: between Christians, obviously, but also between Christians and non-Christians. “Our respective religious traditions all insist on the sacred character of the life and dignity of the human person…. Together with all people of good will, we aspire to peace” (Benedict XVI, 1 February 2007). I would to add also for those in charge of public affairs, how important is to establish trusting relationships with religious authorities so as to draw values from the spiritual patrimony of their communities which may contribute to the harmony of spirits, to the meeting of cultures and to the consolidation of the common good. The values of religious tolerance promoted by Azerbaijan are certainly a reality to consolidate and an example to follow.

3. What, therefore, is the specific input of believers to the edification of this world?

  • To recall that “man does not live on bread alone” and to invite him into an inner life – “All of man’s misfortune comes from one thingwhich is not knowing how to sit quietly in a room” (Pascal);
  • To make available all the know-how that comes from the experience of our prayer meetings where diversity and unity come together harmoniously;
  • To teach attentiveness to others: we have rights but also duties;
  • To teach, in our families, in our schools and in our communities, the pedagogy of peace: “we cannot be happy without one other and even less against one another”;
  • To adopt a life style respectful of the earth’s resources and of the environment, which makes us think of others and of the generations to come;
  • To not be timid when it is a question of reminding the leaders of societies that without freedom and solidarity no peace or happiness are possible;
  • To never to give up in the face of the claims of technology: I am of course thinking of certain experiments in the sphere of biology which could lead to a drifting away from a balanced approach to the managing of creation.

To conclude, I would like to express the wish that we may be able to listen to one another during these days. We will be asked to report on our work. Of course, we are not just brainstorming at the service of the powerful of this world. We are religious leaders, who are “religiously” listening to this plural and precarious world – our world. We want to offer it our most precious possession: the conviction that “the world derives neither from blind chance nor from strict necessity, but from God’s plan” (Caritas in Veritate, n. 57). It is this that impels us to “unite [our] efforts with those of all men and women of good will, with the followers of other religions and with non-believers, so that this world of ours may effectively correspond to the divine plan: living as a family under the Creator’s watchful eye” (ibid.).

Therefore a question wells up within me – and it could be, as it were, a beacon for these days of reflection – perhaps it is we who are responsible for the hope of the world?!

While I was preparing myself to come here, a conviction wells up within me: we are responsible for the hope of the world: We, the believers, we are responsible for the hope of the world !

Baku, 26-27 April 2010.