Cardinal Tauran’s visit warmly received by the Jain, Hindu and Sikh communities

12-16 June 2013

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, visited England from 12th to 16th June, to further the dialogue with the Jain, Sikh and Hindu communities. The meetings focused on the theme of peace, and the contribution that religions can make to it. The Cardinal also attended an event entitled “Together in Prayer for Peace”.

During this event, representatives from the nine main religions in England took turns to offer a prayer for peace in their own tradition. Throughout the visit Cardinal Tauran was accompanied by Father Michael Santiago, who holds responsibility in the Pontifical Council for dialogue with Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains;  Archbishop  Kevin McDonald, who is the bishop in charge of interreligious dialogue at the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and Katharina Smith-Müller, interreligious advisor at the Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales.

Saturday brought the visit to the Sikh community at Guru Nanak Nishkham Sevak Jatha in Birmingham, at which the Cardinal’s party was joined by Archbishop Bernard Longley and his interreligious coordinator, Chevalier Bill Ozanne.  He was welcomed by Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ji, who, in his welcome, spoke of the Sikh community’s contribution to the Millennium Development Goals. Cardinal Tauran reflected on the long shared history of dialogue, and the example of service set in Jesus Christ. The topic that continued this long dialogue tradition between Sikhs and Catholics was service to humanity as a contribution to peace. On this topic, Professor Gavin d’Costa, speaking on behalf of the Catholic community, said that “If we really want to serve, to bring peace into our world, we have to learn what service and peace are from God who is peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding” and talked of worship as the “single primary act of self-abandonment of ourselves into the arms of God”, which forms a basis for all service. His respondent was the Sikh academic Dr Jagbir Kaur Jhutti-Johal, who summed up the centrality of sewa, selfless service, for the Sikh community as follows: “Since God resides in all, as humans we need to respect our neighbour’s rights; give up our obsession with personal gain, and do service (sewa), (whether this is through physical work (tan), through our mental abilities (man) or materially (dhan – dasvandh), without desire (nishkam), for material, or spiritual reward. If we do this then we have done our duty, “dharam nibhaona”, in creating a society which is just and peaceful.”

Speaking at Birmingham Cathedral on Saturday, Cardinal Tauran said that interreligious dialogue is all about “being rooted in our own faith, cultivating, despite differences, harmonious relationships among believers of diverse religions and collaborating with them for the good of humanity with shared values and convictions.” Reflecting on his visit during his homily on Sunday in Westminster Cathedral, he added that the visits had been “educative and enriching” and urged all Catholics to “build up cordial relationships with your neighbours, colleagues and others belonging to other religions to promote the cause of peace”.