Worth reading is Cardinal Tauran’s description of the interfaith activity of the Catholic Church which he gave while in Kenya recently. Tauran is the current president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue at the Vatican, so he knows what he is talking about.
Here is the interesting bit:
4. The new thrust of inter-religious dialogue
My dear friends, as you may know, inter-religious dialogue takes different forms:… dialogue of life, dialogue of cooperation, dialogue of theological discourse and dialogues of spiritualities. The penultimate (dialogue of theological discourse) is often postponed to the future. In the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, that future is now.
Up till recently, discussions and praxis of inter-religious dialogue have focused on the common spiritual bonds which Christians share with other believers. By emphasising these bonds, Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, have constructed bridges of understanding between Christianity and other religions. The perceptible direction of Pope Benedict XVI is that, building on what his predecessors have put in place, he is now leading the Church to cross that bridge. Whereas other highlighted the common elements we share, he wants to emphasize, by use of reason, the distinctiveness of the Christian faith.
Together with other believers we walk in search of the truth. We should be prepared to ask difficult questions. Partners in dialogue must be open to talk about those issues not often put on the table: religious liberty, freedom of conscience, reciprocity, conversion, religious extremism, etc.
That kind of puts things (such as the Regensburg speech and the Good Friday prayer) in a certain perspective, doesn’t it?
It is also entirely of a piece with Papa Benny’s own words to the gathering of Interreligious leaders in the US, when he said:
There is a further point I wish to touch upon here. I have noticed a growing interest among governments to sponsor programs intended to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue. These are praiseworthy initiatives. At the same time, religious freedom, interreligious dialogue and faith-based education aim at something more than a consensus regarding ways to implement practical strategies for advancing peace. The broader purpose of dialogue is to discover the truth. What is the origin and destiny of mankind? What are good and evil? What awaits us at the end of our earthly existence? Only by addressing these deeper questions can we build a solid basis for the peace and security of the human family, for “wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendor of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace” (Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, 3).