Category Archives: Interfaith Dialogue

Yom Kippur

Kom KippurYom Kippur begins at sundown today.

Prayers for our Jewish brothers and sisters for their conversion to Adonai and the forgiveness of sin.

Turkey is precious for Christians, Pope states

pope and erdoganAt work is the interface between Christian faith and public order with Pope Francis making a three day visit to Turkey. A new and concrete plan for peace is needed so that, as Francis says, conflict is not merely the daily and accepted way of life. There is nothing dignified about killing the person who thinks and prays differently from us. The Bishop of Rome calls the visit a “dialogue of friendship.” Nonetheless, his trip to this highly Islamic and fanatic country is going to be interesting in terms of relationships of peace, mutual charitable work and education the coming months (and years). Turkey has been seen as a secular country since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938) who is routinely said to be the founder of the Republic of Turkey and yet, history tells a different story. His republican views had no real place for religion in the marketplace –neither Christian nor Muslim.

Today, many take it for granted that Turkey is an Islamic country with no Christian roots. Just the opposite, Turkey was a significant home of Christians (see the initial comments of Pope Francis below).

Pope Francis is not the first Roman Pontiff to visit Turkey; all of the recent pontiffs made a visit to the land of Christians. Recall, too, that Constantinople –the historic name of the current capitol of Turkey called Istanbul — is the home of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, successor of Saint Andrew and the spiritual father of nearly 300 million Orthodox Christians.

In some ways the Pope was restrained yet clear in his message of the need for a rule of law with various freedoms and rights for ALL peoples AND that the protection of all creation is required for peace. At the moment not everyone in Turkey can claim to be equal, free, and peaceful under the current practice of law.

The Pope’s address at to the leaders of Turkey:

Pope Francis with President of TurkeyI am pleased to visit your country so rich in natural beauty and history, and filled with vestiges of ancient civilizations. It is a natural bridge between two continents and diverse cultures. This land is precious to every Christian for being the birthplace of St Paul, who founded various Christian communities here, and for hosting the first seven Councils of the Church. It is also renowned for the site near Ephesus which a venerable tradition holds to be the “Home of Mary”, the place where the Mother of Jesus lived for some years. It is now a place of devotion for innumerable pilgrims from all over the world, not only for Christians, but also for Muslims.

Yet, the reasons why Turkey is held with such regard and appreciation are not only linked to its past and ancient monuments, but also have to do with the vitality of its present, the hard work and generosity of its people, and its role in the concert of nations.

It brings me great joy to have this opportunity to pursue with you a dialogue of friendship, esteem and respect, in the footsteps of my predecessors Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI. This dialogue was prepared for and supported by the work of the then Apostolic Delegate, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who went on to become Saint John XXIII, and by the Second Vatican Council.

Today what is needed is a dialogue which can deepen the understanding and appreciation of the many things which we hold in common. Such a dialogue will allow us to reflect sensibly and serenely on our differences, and to learn from them.

There is a need to move forward patiently in the task of building a lasting peace, one founded on respect for the fundamental rights and duties rooted in the dignity of each person. In this way, we can overcome prejudices and unwarranted fears, leaving room for respect, encounter, and the release of more positive energies for the good of all.

To this end, it is essential that all citizens – Muslim, Jewish and Christian – both in the provision and practice of the law, enjoy the same rights and respect the same duties. They will then find it easier to see each other as brothers and sisters who are traveling the same path, seeking always to reject misunderstandings while promoting cooperation and concord. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression, when truly guaranteed to each person, will help friendship to flourish and thus become an eloquent sign of peace.

The Middle East, Europe and the world all await this maturing of friendship. The Middle East, in particular, has for too long been a theatre of fratricidal wars, one born of the other, as if the only possible response to war and violence must be new wars and further acts of violence.

How much longer must the Middle East suffer the consequences of this lack of peace? We must not resign ourselves to ongoing conflicts as if the situation can never change for the better! With the help of God, we can and we must renew the courage of peace! Such courage will lead to a just, patient and determined use of all available means of negotiation, and in this way achieve the concrete goals of peace and sustainable development.

Mr President, inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue can make an important contribution to attaining this lofty and urgent goal, so that there will be an end to all forms of fundamentalism and terrorism which gravely demean the dignity of every man and woman and exploit religion.

Fanaticism and fundamentalism, as well as irrational fears which foster misunderstanding and discrimination, need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers. This solidarity must rest on the following pillars: respect for human life and for religious freedom, that is the freedom to worship and to live according to the moral teachings of one’s religion; commitment to ensuring what each person requires for a dignified life; and care for the natural environment. The peoples and the states of the Middle East stand in urgent need of such solidarity, so that they can “reverse the trend” and successfully advance a peace process, repudiating war and violence and pursuing dialogue, the rule of law, and justice.

Sadly, to date, we are still witnessing grave conflicts. In Syria and Iraq, particularly, terrorist violence shows no signs of abating. Prisoners and entire ethnic populations are experiencing the violation of the most basic humanitarian laws. Grave persecutions have taken place in the past and still continue today to the detriment of minorities, especially – though not only – Christians and Yazidis. Hundreds of thousands of persons have been forced to abandon their homes and countries in order to survive and remain faithful to their religious beliefs.

Turkey, which has generously welcomed a great number of refugees, is directly affected by this tragic situation on its borders; the international community has the moral obligation to assist Turkey in taking care of these refugees. In addition to providing much needed assistance and humanitarian aid, we cannot remain indifferent to the causes of these tragedies. In reaffirming that it is licit, while always respecting international law, to stop an unjust aggressor, I wish to reiterate, moreover, that the problem cannot be resolved solely through a military response.

What is required is a concerted commitment on the part of all, based on mutual trust, which can pave the way to lasting peace, and enable resources to be directed, not to weaponry, but to the other noble battles worthy of man: the fight against hunger and sickness, the promotion of sustainable development and the protection of creation, and the relief of the many forms of poverty and marginalization of which there is no shortage in the world today.

Turkey, by virtue of its history, geographical position and regional influence, has a great responsibility: the choices which Turkey makes and its example are especially significant and can be of considerable help in promoting an encounter of civilizations and in identifying viable paths of peace and authentic progress.

May the Most High bless and protect Turkey, and help the nation to be a strong and fervent peacemaker!

Francis meets Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu and Pope Francis Dec 2 2013Pope Francis  received Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel, in private audience, today. The story is here.

As usual is the exchange of gifts. “The Israeli Premiere presented the Pope with a book in Spanish on the Inquisition written by his father who was an historian. He also presented him with a silver “hanukkhah”, a Jewish candle-holder with nine candleholders. On his part, the Pope presented Netanyahu with a bronze bas-relief of Saint Paul.”

Forming ‘the intelligence of the heart’

Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, spoke Monday (November 18) at the opening general assembly of the two-day Global Forum of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and intercultural Dialogue, Vienna, Austria.

The senior cardinal deacon Tauran used an insightful term that needs to developed, ‘intelligence of the heart,’ which he explains that “inspires us to respect what God is accomplishing in every human being” during the opening session of an inter-religious forum in Vienna, Austria, on Monday morning.

The difficulty raised with inter-religious dialogue with Muslims is the concept of the other person; Islam does not hold that people are made in the image and likeness of God. Catholics and Jews do and do so as fundamental to all else. And there is good reason to ask why we spend so much time and money on inter-religious dialogue when there is no identifiable goal to the work done.  It seems doubtful that serious Muslims and serious Christians have one goal: conversion to the Truth: Christians ought to convert Muslims and Muslims convert Christians. Once admitted, then we can have a fruitful dialogue. But that will never happen. Nevertheless,  what Cardinal Tauran states is serious and we ought to consider seriously what it means to live in a  religiously diverse world.

The Cardinal said:

We are living in a changing world. We are living more and more in a ‘provisional’ world. But many people rediscover that we cannot live without reference to history and especially without relation to our contemporaries, their joys and hopes, their griefs and anxieties. In such a context religions are called to propose – not to impose – reasons for living.

What is at the centre of our concern is the human person, man and woman. The human person is the object of the attention of political and religious leaders. Each one of us is a citizen and a believer. All of us belong to the same human family. It means that we share the same dignity, we are confronted by the same problems, we enjoy the same rights and we are called to accomplish the same duties.

But unfortunately, we have to recognize that too often: we judge people on their appearance or on their ‘production’, even though every human person is much more than how he or she appears or is able to produce; we reduce the human person to an object (I am thinking of all the problems raised by bio-technology), while the human person transcends his/her material dimension.

Interreligious dialogue teaches us: to be careful not to present the religion of the other in a bad light in schools, universities, the mass media and, in particular, in the religious discourse; not to demean the religious convictions of the others, especially when they are not present; to consider diversity – ethnical, cultural, vision of the world – as richness, not as a threat.

Interreligious dialogue impels us: to listen and to better know each other; to think before judging; to present the content of our faith and our reasons for living with kindness and respect.”

Therefore, interreligious dialogue can contribute to: give to God again the place which He deserves; to inspire fraternity; to give the wisdom and courage to act.

To look at the theme “The Image of the Other” is also to look within ourselves in order to purify all that makes us closed to what is new and true; to look at the other means also to accept being questioned by him about our faith and to be ready to give an account of it; to look at the other is to be available to work with all persons of good will for the common good.

One of the tasks of KAICIID could be the promotion of what I dare to call, “the intelligence of the heart,” which inspires us to respect what God is accomplishing in every human being and at the same time to respect the mystery that every human person represents. What we have to avoid absolutely is that religions engender fear, attitudes of exclusion or of superiority in people.

In concluding, I express my heartfelt wishes for the success of this meeting. It will send a very significant message if KAICIID can become a place where we can take time to look at each other, to better know each other and to share all our abilities in order to make this world more secure and enlightened, with all its inhabitants living in the spirit of respect and friendship that Pope Francis has repeatedly said, “To encounter all because we all have in common our having been created in the image and likeness of God.” (To Participants in the Plenary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, 14 October 2013)

Hagia Sophia to be turned into a mosque?

I just came across an article on AsiaNews that’s disturbing to me: “Persistent rumors suggest Hagia Sophia will be turned into a mosque” (Aug 30 2013). It confirmed my worst fears that one of the greatest churches in world –after the 4 central basilicas in Rome, a few others– may be returned to the Muslims for worship.

Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) was built as a Christian church, known as the great church, in 537. And, it was the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople until the Ottomans oppressed the Christians.

In 1453, Hagia Sophia along with other Christian churches, were confiscated and turned into mosques.  When Mustafa Atatürk, in 1923, founded the secular state of Turkey,Hagia Sophia mosque became a museum.

From the Muslim side, the Hagia Sophia is a symbol of Islamic conquest of Christianity and it’s in their best interest to reassert themselves by taking the museum back as a place of muslim worship. If the rumors are true, this building will be a central symbol of the caliphate that is expected to formed.

Disclaimer: I want the former cathedral returned to the Christians. The church ought to be a Christian temple. I advocate the praying of the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom at what would be the central altar. If not, then I will concede Patriarch Bartholomew’s view: Hagia Sophia to remain a museum.

Some people report that in 2006 a small room was made available to the staff of the museum for Christian or Muslin prayer. In 2013, the minarets ring out the call for Islamic prayer. The camel’s nose is creeping.

God help us.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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