Ex-diplomat Cardinal Tauran pulls no punches now

June 12, 2008

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, 25 Nov 2005/Jameson WuCardinal Jean-Louis Tauran has apparently left diplomacy behind in his past life. The cardinal is now the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, and as such, Pope Benedict’s point man for relations with all non-Christian religions except for Judaism.

From 1975 to 2003, Tauran was often a tight-lipped Vatican diplomat. He did his job so well he ended his previous life as Secretary for Relations with States, effectively the
Vatican’s foreign minister and number three position in the Secretariat of State.

When he left that job, the Frenchman was briefly Archivist of Holy Roman Church and kept a mostly low profile.

But since September of last year, when he was named to a position in the inter-religious dialogue department, he seems to have undergone a metamorphosis. He has been more outspoken. In the initial response to the “Common Word” dialogue appeal from 138 Muslim scholars, he seemed unusually firm but it wasn’t clear that this might be a trend.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, 23 Oct 2006/Claro CortesThen in March, in a breakfast meeting with journalists, Tauran did not pull his punches when speaking of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. He said Williams had been “mistaken and naive” for suggesting that some aspects of Sharia law in Britain were unavoidable.

Even though he was indirectly speaking of one area of his expertise — Islam — he was in a certain way “invading” another Vatican department’s turf since relations with Anglicans is the domain of the Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity — headed by German Cardinal Walter Kasper. In fact, Kasper’s department did not find out that Tauran had criticised Williams until his comments were already in the British media.

“That’s just Tauran being Tauran,” one Vatican official commented.

A Muslim man prays in tehran, 1 Oct 2006/Morteza NikoubazlTauran did it again this week with a straight-talking interview with terrasanta.net, a website which specialises in Holy Land affairs. He said what many in the Vatican and beyond had felt for a long time — that the world is obsessed with Islam, that such an obsession is holding Christian dialogue “hostage”, and that in the world of religious dialogue, there should not be first-class religions and second-class religions.

With no help from computers, Cardinal Tauran has apparently entered his own form of second life. Vive la difference!

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