Wednesday, October 28, 2015
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate on the relations of the Catholic Church to non-Christian religions, the Vatican departments of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, have organized an International conference at the Gregorian University, dated the 26-28 October. The three-day conference, introduced by the rector of the University, Fr. Francois-Xavier Dumortier, SJ, and the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Fr. Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, Comboni missionary, has been attended by the presence of experts and personalities from different religious beliefs. On the last day, the conference’s participants will attend the General Audience of Pope Francis; Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin will conclude the three-day conference with an contribution entitled ‘Education to Peace’.
The 27th of October was dedicated to issues of religion as service to the human being, of violence and the commitment of religions for peace, and the challenge to religious freedom. Themes absolutely relevant considering the role of religions in building peace and the importance of religious freedom. A recurring theme was the danger of the instrumental use of religion by politics. In this sense, prof. Paul Gilbert, SJ, spoke of the risk that religion can be subjected to the 'will to power' and become a simple tool for power – reflecting the same ambiguity of scientific research which is subservient to and used by technology; this is a religion of the idol, said the professor, not that of the icon that, on the contrary, reflects the image of God and sustains the believer’s hope and spiritual discernment. Prof. Bruna Costacurta explained how, in the biblical wisdom literature, the human person is not only created as being-in-dialogue but that the search for justice itself expresses the truth of the dialogue; the just man hears the cry of the poor: “Refuse no kindness to those who need it, if it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbour, ‘Go, and come another time, I will give it to you tomorrow’, if you can do it now” (Prov.3,27-28).
Various speakers emphasized the importance of religious dialogue for building peace and a more just world. Rabbi Daniel Sperber concluded his report by stating that the challenge of religion in our time is to ‘repair the world’, Tiqqun 'Olam in Hebrew, a concept that originated in the early rabbinic period that indicates the need for social action in the pursuit of social justice – a task to be undertaken by all people of good will.
Very significantly the date of the second day of the conference has coincided with the anniversary of the interreligious prayer in Assisi dated back to the 27th October 1986 which, according to one of the speakers, is the most mature fruit of the declaration Nostra Aetate.