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Francis: Inter-Religious Dialogue Doesn't Mean Compromising the Faith

religion symbolsWhile addressing participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful not to put aside their own beliefs in order to dialogue with those of other faiths but to "have the courage and the patience to encounter and come towards each other as we are.”

The Vatican Information Service is reporting on the event, which took place last week in Vatican City, stating that the Catholic Church is conscious of the value of the promotion of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions especially because the world is becoming "smaller" due to increased migration throughout the world.

"This fact calls to our Christian conscience and it is a challenge for the understanding of faith and for the real life … of many believers," the Pope said in his welcoming address.

Referring to his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he reaffirmed that “an attitude of openness in truth and in love must characterize dialogue with the followers of non-Christian religions, in spite of various obstacles and difficulties, especially forms of fundamentalism on both sides."

This doesn't mean that there won't be difficulties in co-existence in some parts of the world, especially where political or economic motives overlap with cultural and religious differences, thus exploiting misunderstandings and past mistakes, he said.

But this doesn't mean the faithful must renounce their own identity, the Pope explained, “nor does it mean accepting compromises on faith and Christian morality. On the contrary, 'true openness involves remaining steadfast in one's deepest convictions, clear and joyful in one's own identity', and therefore convinced that the encounter with persons different to ourselves may offer an opportunity for growth in brotherhood, enrichment and witness.”

He added, “Interreligious dialogue and evangelization are not mutually exclusive, but rather nurture each other. We do not impose anything, we use no underhand strategies to attract the faithful, but rather evangelize with the joy and the simplicity in which we believe and which we experience. Indeed, an encounter in which each person sets aside his belief, pretending to renounce that which is most dear to him, would certainly not be an authentic relationship. This could be described as a false fraternity”.

Instead, he called for more constructive dialogue between people of different religious traditions and in secularized societies where there exists a fear of the various religious traditions and of the religious dimension. In these societies, "there is a widespread belief that co-existence would be possible only by concealing one's own religious identity, encountering one another in a sort of neutral space, without references to the transcendent," the pope said.

"However, how is it possible to create true relations, to build a society that is an authentic communal home, imposing that its members set aside an intimate part of their being? Certainly, it is necessary that all this occurs with respect for the convictions of others, even those who do not believe, but we must have the courage and the patience to encounter and come towards each other as we are”.

He concluded: “The future is in respectful co-existence in diversity, not in the uniformity of a single theoretically neutral thought. The recognition of the fundamental right to religious freedom, in all its dimensions, therefore becomes indispensable. In this regard, great efforts have been made to express the Magisterium of the Church during recent decades. We are convinced that this is the route to building peace in the world.”

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