Words of Welcome at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of PCID

Cardinal Jean-Louise Tauran, President

19 May 2014

It is a privilege for me to welcome you to this special celebration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Let me first of all express my gratitude to all those who are present here today or already gone to the House of the Father, for their valuable work and for sharing their knowledge at the service of the Church which is entrusted to this Council. It is impossible for me here to remember everyone, but I am sure that their names and faces live in the hearts and minds of each one of us. I thank all of you who are gathered here because, by accepting our invitation to attend this conference, you also agreed to share with us the joy of this happy occasion. Finally, I wish to thank all of our staff for their willingness and generosity to serve the good cause of interreligious dialogue.

In present times, conflicts are often marked by religious differences, making relationships and dialogue among persons of different religions more needed than ever. Such dialogue must continue, with both courage and prudence, and with patient perseverance, trusting in the help of the Holy Spirit, Who, ever since this Dicastery was founded on Pentecost of 1964, has supported our commitment to dialogue in all its different forms and with many persons of different religions.

Bearing this in mind, I would like to recall what Pope John Paul II said about the duties of Catholics towards others: Christ’s proclamation, witnessing and dialogue: “It is the Holy Spirit who scatters the ‘seeds of the Word’ in the various customs and cultures…This awareness cannot fail to instil in Christ’s disciples an attitude of openness and dialogue towards those with different religious convictions. If the Church’s children know how to remain open to the Holy Spirit’s action, he will help them communicate Christ’s one, universal, saving message in a way that respects the religious convictions of others.” (Homily of Pope John Paul II for Pentecost, N. 3-4, 10 June 2000).

All of the sons and daughters of the Church who work or have worked in the past for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue have always tried, with esteem and respect for persons of other religious traditions, to remain open to the work of the Holy Spirit. Even in difficult moments, when misunderstandings, the inability to communicate and even the rejection by the others seemed to prevail, the Lord gave us the grace to recognize what is true and good and that is sown in the hearts of the members of other religions.

In these 50 years there have been numerous opportunities for sincere dialogue, collaboration, and search for a common approach to meet the needs of this world. There are many people of other religions whom we have met along the way, sharing a part of the journey, and whom I remember here with gratitude and friendship.

After fifty years, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has come a long way in its efforts to help the Church reflect on the aspect of its mandate which consists of meeting the followers of other religions. I would like to emphasize the importance that has always been given to collaboration with the bishops’ conferences around the world, whether in terms of participation in colloquia or conferences which they have organized or when it is the Dicastery itself which organizes an event, always inviting representatives of the local churches.

The cooperation in the field of ecumenism is also important, in particular the on-going collaboration over the years with the World Council of Churches. We are aware that in order to be faithful witnesses to the Lord Jesus, we Christians must offer our unity to the world. Even as regards interfaith relations, it is important to find a common path that makes us credible in the eyes of believers of other religions. The fruitful collaboration with the World Council of Churches produced a number of documents, among which I remember: on Interfaith Prayer, on Interfaith Marriage and the last in chronological order, on Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World.

It would be impossible not to mention here the work of theological reflection accompanying the creation of the Dicastery.  There have been various texts produced by the Dicastery which provided indications about the approach to have with followers of other religions. In 1984, and then in 1990, two important documents were published known by their short titles, “Dialogue and Mission ” (1984) and “Dialogue and Announcement ” (1990). During the last Plenary Assembly of the Dicastery (November 2013) “Guidelines of Pastoral Orientation for Interreligious Dialogue”, which had been prepared in the previous Plenary Assembly, were then presented. Let me recall to mind, finally, our Pro Dialogo bulletin in which there is a collection of both Papal interventions on Interreligious Dialogue as well as various articles and news on interreligious dialogue actions throughout the world.

Time does not allow me to go on.  I would like to conclude with my thanks for the encouragement and support which the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has been receiving from the Pontiffs over the years.

After the “dialogue with the world” of Paul VI, the “dialogue of peace” of John Paul II, the “dialogue of love and truth” of Benedict XVI, we have come to the challenge of interreligious dialogue as “dialogue of friendship”, announced by Pope Francis.

In this way we continue on the path of dialogue, aware that we must look ahead while bringing with us the great richness of the past gathered over the years. Let us invoke the Holy Spirit, asking that He help us to free ourselves from being closed to what is new and what is true, but above all that He arise in us the desire and the willingness to collaborate with all persons in view of the common good.