Opening Remarks at the Catholic-Muslim Forum

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran

4 November 2008

Your Excellency, Dr. Khoramshad,
Dear friends,

I am pleased to welcome each of you and in a particular way our Iranian friends, thanking God for their safe arrival and their presence among us. Our meeting in the present context of interreligious dialogue is particularly significant. I am pleased also to tell you that on next Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI will receive us in a private audience and it will be an encouragement to double our efforts to find ways to promote justice in the contemporary world, which is the theme of our encounter: “Catholic and Muslim Cooperation in Promoting Justice in the Contemporary World”.

During these days we are going to share each our own approach as regards Justice and we shall do that from a religious perspective.

First of all, as believers we recognize that our world is not the fruit of fate or the fruit of necessity but it is the result of an extraordinary project of God who, in a very mysterious way, has decided to create the Cosmos and to entrust it to the human person. He is at the beginning and at the end of human history.

Christians know that “The whole creation is eagerly waiting for God…From the beginning to now the entire creation has been groaning in one great act of giving birth” (Rom, 8:21-22). And Muslims, for their part, do not forget that God put at the disposal of men and women all what is in heaven and all what is on the earth.

As believers we are therefore invited to make of this world a place where God and his creatures are in harmony among themselves and with nature, and to remember that we are responsible for the accomplishment of God’s project.

Believers and non-believers agree at least on one point: “All things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown,” as we read in Constitution Gaudiem et Spes.

So as religious leaders and intellectuals we are called to meet the needs of the concrete life of peoples and to contribute to make social life more human, more open to transcendence, and more open to the common good. It is there that justice comes in: when we speak of justice we speak of the capacity to love.

Almighty God has granted us faith and reason. You remember that in April 2008 we jointly organized an encounter on the theme of “Faith and Reason in Christianity and Islam”.

If we are creatures, it means that we are also partners of God. And all together we must work in order that violence disappear and dialogue triumph. We must do our utmost in order that the use of arms be replaced by the sincere will of peace. We must behave in order that pride and egoism do not spoil the quality of our human relationships. You remember what Pope John Paul II proclaimed: No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness (1st January 2002).

In that field believers have a specific role to play, because religious faith brings people together and unites them. Religious beliefs make them more attentive, more responsible, more generous in their commitment to the common good. So it is the task of religious leaders to ensure that freedom of conscience and freedom of religion are consistently secured in order that the communities of believers be free to receive, to learn and to announce their message of fraternity and to promote a pedagogy of respect for pluralism.

In conclusion I want to add that perhaps we shall not reach total consensus on some issues but what is important is to remember that, as believers, we have to propose some answers to the fundamental questions that normal human beings ask: What is the meaning of our life? Why is there suffering? Why are there wars? Why can we not reach harmony? The path leading to justice begins by solidarity. We have to recall that beauty, truth, and bounty are capable of changing the world and making of it a place where it is good to live together. It is my hope and my prayer that during these days we can reach concrete initiatives to work together for the promotion of the common good. We are going to ask ourselves, what is the origin of the dignity of the human person? Do we serve the dignity of the human person? Do we practice solidarity? These are very practical questions that religious leaders, educated persons and leaders of society cannot avoid.

So I invoke the blessing of Almighty God on each of us, on our communities, and on the human family and especially on its members who are deprived of their rights and are eagerly looking for justice.