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Cardinal: Christians, Muslims ‘Still Don’t Know Each Other Well Enough’

21 May 2015 – By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) — “Despite 50 years of ‘Nostra Aetate,’ ” the Second Vatican Council’s document on interreligious relations, “we still don’t know each other well enough,” said French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Speaking on 19 May about Catholic-Muslim relations, Cardinal Tauran added, “Most of the problems we face are problems of ignorance.”

Cardinal Tauran made his remarks in a keynote address at the conference “‘Nostra Aetate’: Celebrating Fifty Years of the Catholic Church’s Dialogue With Jews and Muslims,” held at The Catholic University of America, Washington, and co-sponsored by the university’s School of Theology and Religious Studies and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

The conference was being held to mark the 50th anniversary of the document’s promulgation on 28 October 1965.

For Christians entering into dialogue with Muslims, Cardinal Tauran said, they need to understand that Islam is at the same time a religion, a political system and a civilization. “It’s a very complex reality,” he added.

He gave a glimpse into how “Nostra Aetate” came about.

It had been a wish of St. John XXIII that some sort of document along the lines of “Nostra Aetate” be issued during Vatican II, but he died in 1963, before the council could consider it, Cardinal Tauran said. Some delegates to the council did not want to have such a document come up for discussion, he added.

When discussion finally took place, “some bishops from the Middle East were concerned about this problem” that the draft of the document spoke only about the relationship between Catholics and Jews, and that this would not sit well with Muslim civic and religious leaders in the region.

“It soon became clear that ‘Nostra Aetate’ had nothing to do with [the state of] Israel,” Cardinal Tauran said, and the document was modified to include Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other faith systems.

“‘Nostra Aetate’ recognizes that there are elements of truth in other religions,” Cardinal Tauran said, echoing the passage in “Nostra Aetate” that declares, “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of acting and of living, those precepts and teachings which, through differing in many aspects from the one she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all.”

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue coordinates and collaborates with other Vatican agencies for interreligious gatherings, according to Cardinal Tauran, such as the day of prayer for peace in Assisi, Italy.

It also takes the lead in organizing dialogues with Muslim bodies worldwide, although one Muslim group unilaterally withdrew its participation in dialogue in 2011, saying that Pope Benedict XVI’s comments about Islam during a controversial speech in 2006 in Regensburg, Germany, was “an insult to Islam.”





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Tags: Interreligious Christian-Muslim relations Interfaith Dialogue Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran