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Inter-Religious Meet: Pope insists on "The Quest For The Sacred"

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altVATICAN CITY, 17 SEP 2010 (VIS): At midday today in St. Mary's University College at Twickenham, the Holy Father met with leaders from the main Christian confessions and from other religions present in the United Kingdom: Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.

 "The presence of committed believers in various fields of social and economic life speaks eloquently of the fact that the spiritual dimension of our lives is fundamental to our identity as human beings", the Pope told his audience.

He then highlighted how "the quest for the sacred is the search for the one thing necessary, which alone satisfies the longings of the human heart".

"The human and natural sciences", he explained, "cannot satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart, they cannot fully explain to us our origin and our destiny, why and for what purpose we exist, nor indeed can they provide us with an exhaustive answer to the question, 'why is there something rather than nothing?'

"The quest for the sacred", the Pope added, "does not devalue other fields of human enquiry. On the contrary, it places them in a context which magnifies their importance, as ways of responsibly exercising our stewardship over creation". God "entrusted us with the task of exploring and harnessing the mysteries of nature in order to serve a higher good. ... In the Christian faith [this] is expressed as love for God and love for our neighbour. And so we engage with the world wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, but always with a view to serving that higher good, lest we disfigure the beauty of creation by exploiting it for selfish purposes.

"So it is that genuine religious belief points us beyond present utility towards the transcendent. It reminds us of the possibility and the imperative of moral conversion, of the duty to live peaceably with our neighbour, of the importance of living a life of integrity. ... It motivates us to cultivate the practice of virtue and to reach out towards one another in love, with the greatest respect for religious traditions different from our own".

Referring then to the importance of dialogue and collaboration with followers of other religions, the Holy Father made specific mention of "situations in some parts of the world, where co-operation and dialogue between religions calls for mutual respect, the freedom to practise one's religion and to engage in acts of public worship, and the freedom to follow one's conscience without suffering ostracism or persecution, even after conversion from one religion to another. Once such a respect and openness has been established, peoples of all religions will work together effectively for peace and mutual understanding, and so give a convincing witness before the world".

And he went on: "This kind of dialogue needs to take place on a number of different levels, and should not be limited to formal discussions. The dialogue of life involves simply living alongside one another and learning from one another in such a way as to grow in mutual knowledge and respect.

The dialogue of action brings us together in concrete forms of collaboration, as we apply our religious insights to the task of promoting integral human development, working for peace, justice and the stewardship of creation. Such a dialogue may include exploring together how to defend human life at every stage and how to ensure the non-exclusion of the religious dimension of individuals and communities in the life of society.

"Then at the level of formal conversations, there is a need not only for theological exchange, but also sharing our spiritual riches, speaking of our experience of prayer and contemplation, and expressing to one another the joy of our encounter with divine love. In this context I am pleased to note the many positive initiatives undertaken in this country to promote such dialogue at a variety of levels".

Pope Benedict concluded his remarks before the multi-religious gathering by giving assurances that the Catholic Church "follows the path of engagement and dialogue out of a genuine sense of respect for you and your beliefs. Catholics, both in Britain and throughout the world, will continue to work to build bridges of friendship to other religions, to heal past wrongs and to foster trust between individuals and communities".

At the end of the event, the Pope travelled to the apostolic nunciature where he had lunch. [VIS 20100917]

 

 
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