Welcome Address at 2nd Colloquium between the Royal Institute for Inter-faith Studies

and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran

18 May 2011

Your Excellency Dr. Abu Jaber, Director of RIIFS,
Dear Muslim and Catholic friends,

I am pleased to welcome you all, warmly, to this second Colloquium between the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, held in the Vatican.

Along with H.E. Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata and Monsignor Khaled Akasheh, I recall the first Colloquium which took place in Amman in November 2009. The friendly atmosphere and the open discussions encouraged us to affirm together many important aspects regarding religion and civil society.

We meet here in Rome immediately after a very significant event: the beatification – a declaration of holiness – of Pope John Paul II, a pontiff who contributed so much for dialogue among believers of diverse religions, especially among Christians and Muslims. Among his many initiatives in this field, the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi in 1986 and the one in 2002 merit special mention. It would not be out of place here to mention the special significance of his visit to the Omeyyad Mosque in Damascus the 6th May 2001: in fact, the Blessed John Paul II was the first Pope to enter a mosque. This gesture was repeated by his successor Pope Benedict XVI, in Istanbul (30 November 2006), in Amman (9 May 2009) and in Jerusalem (12 May 2009). I am hopeful that we all, Muslims and Christians, will keep this legacy of the ‘Pope of dialogue’ for peace in the world dear to us to promote fraternity among all the members of the human family.

The theme of our colloquium, as we are all aware of, is of great importance: education, the values our respective religious traditions share and the common action we can make together.

In a letter addressed to the Diocese of Rome on January 21st, 2008 on the urgent task of education, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI said: “We all have at heart the welfare of the people we love, especially our children, adolescents and young people. We know in fact that the future of our city [Rome] depends on them. We cannot therefore not be solicitous for the education of new generations, for their ability to move in life and to discern good from evil, for their health not only physical but also moral.”

The challenge of education is, first of all, at the personal level: we should put into practice what we teach, what we ask our children to do. We therefore need to be authentic to be credible. This is also true in the field of interreligious relations: the attitude of children to the other depends much on the example they receive from us, their parents or teachers.

Another challenge in the field of education is that of the formation of identities and the attitude towards the distinct identity of others, as a result mainly through the teaching of religion and history. I am sure that you will agree with me on the necessity of being well rooted in one’s own religious and cultural tradition besides being, at the same time, open to others’ identities.

I conclude by invoking abundant blessings from the All-Loving and the Almighty God on us, our families, our respective countries and especially on our deliberations here hoping and praying that all that we do may be useful for us and for the communities we belong to.