Vatican-Iranian dialogue agrees on faith, reason, non-violence
Pope Benedict was “particularly satisfied” with the topic of a meeting this week held between Vatican and Iranian specialists on inter-faith dialogue, according to a statement just put out by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. That shouldn’t be any surprise. The statement copied below shows his trademark topic — the compatibility of faith and reason — was prominent at the three-day session. He has been stressing this for years, with some success (as during his recent U.S. visit) and some misunderstanding (as in his Regensburg speech). With another Catholic-Muslim meeting due later this year, with delegates of the Common Word group, we can expect this issue to stay front and centre in inter-faith dialogue.
That the Iranian delegation agreed with the statements on faith and reason shows they did not see the contradiction between them in Islam that some observers read into Benedict’s comments in Regensburg. They also agreed that “faith and reason are intrinsically non-violent,” a message Benedict said he meant to get across there. Another point agreed on here — that both Catholics and Muslims should promote respect for religious beliefs and symbols — seems to have the controversy over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad as its background. One can’t read too much into one meeting but it seems that dialogue is moving ahead despite some occasional setbacks.
I can’t help but notice the different emphasis here from what the popular Egyptian preacher Amr Khaled said this week about the protests against the Danish cartoons.
Here is the final communique (my emphasis of main points):
- 1. Faith and reason are both gifts of God to mankind.
- 2. Faith and reason do not contradict each other, but faith might in some cases be above reason, but never against it.
- 3. Faith and reason are intrinsically non-violent. Neither reason nor faith should be used for violence; unfortunately, both of them have been sometimes misused to perpetrate violence. In any case, these events cannot question either reason or faith.
- 4. Both sides agreed to further co-operate in order to promote genuine religiosity, in particular spirituality, to encourage respect for symbols considered to be sacred and to promote moral values.
- 5. Christians and Muslims should go beyond tolerance, accepting differences, while remaining aware of commonalities and thanking God for them. They are called to mutual respect, thereby condemning derision of religious beliefs.
- 6. Generalization should be avoided when speaking of religions. Differences of confessions within Christianity and Islam, diversity of historical contexts are important factors to be considered.
- 7. Religious traditions cannot be judged on the basis of a single verse or a passage present in their respective holy Books. A holistic vision as well as an adequate hermeneutical method is necessary for a fair understanding of them.
- The participants expressed their satisfaction with the level of the presentations and the debates as well as the open and friendly atmosphere during the colloquium.
- The participants were honoured and pleased to be received at the end of the colloquium by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who was particularly satisfied with the choice of the theme and the venue of the meeting.
- The next colloquium will be held in Tehran within two years, preceded by a preparatory meeting.