Thursday, April 17, 2008

Interreligious Gathering at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center

What's Happening Today: Thursday, April 17
6:30 p.m. - Interreligious Gathering at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center
NOTE: This post will be updated as more information becomes available on this topic.

The Pope will meet with representatives of other religions on the theme “Peace Our Hope.” Construction on the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center began in 1997 on 12 acres adjacent to the Catholic University of America. Since its dedication in 2000, the Center has been the site of many interreligious discussions and events.

  • 6:30 p.m. - The Pope will enter through the front door of the Center. Bishop Richard J. Sklba, chairman, USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs will welcome the Pope along with an audience of some 220 individuals representing five religions: Buddhism, Hindu, Islam, Jainism and Judaism. Pope Benedict XVI will give an address. The Holy Father will then be presented with symbols of peace by five young people:
    • Judaism: Menorah, presented by David J. Michaels, director for intercommunal affairs, Center for Human Rights and Public Policy at B’nai B’rith International.
    • Islam: Qur’an, presented by Saman Hussain, coordinator, Unity Walk 2007.
    • Jainism: Metallic cube, presented by Aditya Vora, a Jain young adult studying at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.
    • Buddhism: Bell, presented by Masako Fukata, a youth leader of Rissho Kosei-kai, a socially engaged Buddhist organization headquartered in Tokyo.
    • Hinduism: Sculpture of syllable Om by Dr. Ravi Gupta, assistant professor of religion, Centre College, Danville, Ky.
    A greeting of interreligious leaders will be followed by a song: "Peace Prayer", attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, sung by a schola cantorum.

Text of Benedict XVI's address - Meeting with representatives of other religions Pope John Paul II Cultural Center:

Americans have always valued the ability to worship freely and in accordance with their conscience. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French historian and observer of American affairs, was fascinated with this aspect of the nation. He remarked that this is a country in which religion and freedom are "intimately linked" in contributing to a stable democracy that fosters social virtues and participation in the communal life of all its citizens. In urban areas, it is common for individuals from different cultural backgrounds and religions to engage with one another daily in commercial, social and educational settings. Today, in classrooms throughout the country, young Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and indeed children of all religions sit side-by-side, learning with one another and from one another. This diversity gives rise to new challenges that spark a deeper reflection on the core principles of a democratic society. May others take heart from your experience, realizing that a united society can indeed arise from a plurality of peoples - "E pluribus unum": "out of many, one" - provided that all recognize religious liberty as a basic civil right (cf. Dignitatis Humanae, 2).

The task of upholding religious freedom is never completed. New situations and challenges invite citizens and leaders to reflect on how their decisions respect this basic human right. Protecting religious freedom within the rule of law does not guarantee that peoples - particularly minorities - will be spared from unjust forms of discrimination and prejudice. This requires constant effort on the part of all members of society to ensure that citizens are afforded the opportunity to worship peaceably and to pass on their religious heritage to their children.

Source: Reuters

The transmission of religious traditions to succeeding generations not only helps to preserve a heritage; it also sustains and nourishes the surrounding culture in the present day. The same holds true for dialogue between religions; both the participants and society are enriched. As we grow in understanding of one another, we see that we share an esteem for ethical values, discernable to human reason, which are revered by all peoples of goodwill. The world begs for a common witness to these values. I therefore invite all religious people to view dialogue not only as a means of enhancing mutual understanding, but also as a way of serving society at large. By bearing witness to those moral truths which they hold in common with all men and women of goodwill, religious groups will exert a positive influence on the wider culture, and inspire neighbors, co-workers and fellow citizens to join in the task of strengthening the ties of solidarity. In the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: "no greater thing could come to our land today than a revival of the spirit of faith".


    Pope meets interreligious leaders, says dialogue discovers truth, by Regina Linskey. Catholic News Service. August 27, 2008.

  • "Open mike at interfaith papal forum, by Cathy Lynn Grossman. USA Today April 17, 2008:
    ... when the pope and invited Jewish guests had left the room so the pope could share a private greeting for the Passover holiday, which begins at sunset Saturday, one of the Muslim representatives called on the others who had spoken to the pope to share what they said.

    Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America said he had thanked the pope for years of efforts toward Catholic-Muslim dialogue, but asked that he be cautious not to disrupt it. Muzammil Siddiqi of the Fiqh Council of North America, told the pope he hoped Muslims might have a special meeting, too.

    Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini said he asked the pope to establish a permanent dialogue between the church and Muslims, noting that the two religions make up more than half of the world's population.