|Religious belief cannot be
separated from the defence of God's image in every human being
On Thursday afternoon, 23 March, the
Holy Father went to the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre for an
interreligious meeting with Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious
leaders. Three children's choirs performed separately and then together
sang "Jerusalem of Peace", a song especially composed for the
occasion. After Rabbi Meir Lau and Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi had spoken, the
Pope gave the following address in English. Here is the text.
Distinguished Jewish, Christian and Muslim
1. In this year of the 2,000th anniversary of the Birth of Jesus
Christ, I am truly happy to be able to fulfil my long-cherished wish to
make a journey through the geography of salvation history. I am deeply
moved as I follow in the footsteps of the countless pilgrims who before me
have prayed in the Holy Places connected with God's interventions. I am
fully conscious that this land is Holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Therefore my visit would have been incomplete without this meeting with
you, distinguished religious leaders. Thank you for the support which your
presence here this evening gives to the hope and conviction of so many
people that we are indeed entering a new era of interreligious dialogue.
We are conscious that closer ties among all believers are a necessary and
urgent condition for securing a more just and peaceful world.
For all of us Jerusalem, as its name indicates, is the "City of
Peace". Perhaps no other place in the world communicates the
sense of transcendence and divine election that we perceive in her stones
and monuments, and in the witness of the three religions living side by
side within her walls. Not everything has been or will be easy in this
coexistence. But we must find in our respective religious traditions the
wisdom and the superior motivation to ensure the triumph of mutual
understanding and cordial respect.
2. We all agree that religion must be genuinely centred on God, and
that our first religious duty is adoration, praise and thanksgiving. The
opening sura of the Qur'an makes this clear: "Praise be to
God, the Lord of the Universe" (Qur’an, 1:1). In the
inspired songs of the Bible we hear this universal call: "Let
everything that breathes give praise to the Lord! Alleluia!" (Ps
150:6). And in the Gospel we read that when Jesus was born the angels
sang: "Glory to God in the highest heaven" (Lk 2:14). In
our times, when many are tempted to run their affairs without any
reference to God, the call to acknowledge the Creator of the universe
and the Lord of history is essential in ensuring the well-being of
individuals and the proper development of society.
3. If it is authentic, devotion to God necessarily involves attention
to our fellow human beings. As members of the one human family and as
God's beloved children, we have duties towards one another which, as
believers, we cannot ignore. One of the first disciples of Jesus wrote:
"If any one says, ‘I love God', and hates his brother, he is a
liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love
God whom he has not seen" (I Jn 4:20). Love of our brothers and
sisters involves an attitude of respect and compassion, gestures of
solidarity, cooperation in service to the common good. Thus, concern
for justice and peace does not lie outside the field of religion but is
actually one of its essential elements.
In the Christian view it is not for religious leaders to propose
technical formulas for the solution of social, economic and political
problems. Theirs is, above all, the task of teaching the truths of faith
and right conduct, the task of helping people—including those with
responsibility in public life—to be aware of their duties and to fulfil
them. As religious leaders, we help people to live integrated lives, to
harmonize the vertical dimension of their relationship with God with the
horizontal dimension of service to their neighbour.
4. Each of our religions knows, in some form or another, the Golden
Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".
Precious as this rule is as a guide, true love of neighbour goes much
further. It is based on the conviction that when we love our neighbour
we are showing love for God, and when we hurt our neighbour we offend God.
This means that religion is the enemy of exclusion and discrimination, of
hatred and rivalry, of violence and conflict. Religion is not, and must
not become, an excuse for violence, particularly when religious identity
coincides with cultural and ethnic identity. Religion and peace go
together! Religious belief and practice cannot be separated from the
defence of the image of God in every human being.
Drawing upon the riches of our respective religious traditions, we must
spread awareness that today's problems will not be solved if we remain
ignorant of one another and isolated from one another. We are all aware of
past misunderstandings and conflicts, and these still weigh heavily upon
relationships between Jews, Christians and Muslims. We must do all that
we can to turn awareness of past offences and sins into a firm resolve to
build a new future in which there will be nothing but respectful and
fruitful cooperation between us.
The Catholic Church wishes to pursue a sincere and fruitful
interreligious dialogue with the members of the Jewish faith and the
followers of Islam. Such a dialogue is not an attempt to impose our views
upon others. What it demands, of all of us is that, holding to what we
believe, we listen respectfully to one another, seek to discern all that
is good and holy in each other's teachings, and cooperate in supporting
everything that favours mutual understanding and peace.
5. The Jewish, Christian and Muslim children and young people
present here are a sign of hope and an incentive for us. Each new
generation is a divine gift to the world. If we pass on to them all that
is noble and good in our traditions, they will make it blossom in more
intense brotherhood and cooperation.
If the various religious communities in the Holy City and in the Holy
Land succeed in living and working together in friendship and harmony,
this will be of enormous benefit not only to themselves but to the whole
cause of peace in this region. Jerusalem will truly be a City of Peace
for all peoples. Then we will all repeat the words of the Prophet:
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord … that he may teach
us his ways and that we may walk in his paths" (Is 2.3).
To recommit ourselves to such a task, and to do so in the Holy City
of Jerusalem, is to ask God to look kindly on our efforts and bring
them to a happy outcome. May the Almighty abundantly bless our common