As I am taking the floor, you will understand that my first duty is to convey to all of you the cordial greetings and spiritual closeness of Pope Benedict XVI who has learned with great interest of this Madrid meeting, due to the initiative of His Majesty Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud. His Holiness is convinced that dialogue based on love and truth among believers is the best way to contribute to harmony, happiness and peace for the peoples of the earth.
I feel privileged to have been asked to express the sentiments of the Conference participants at the end of our three days work.
The first sentiment of course is one of gratitude for His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud who took the initiative of inviting us, to His Majesty King Juan Carlos I who offered his most gracious patronage, to H. E. Dr Abdullah Al-Turki, Secretary General of the World Muslim League, who has been a discreet and vigilant promoter. We want also to thank the staff of the general Secretariat, the interpreters and all those who have contributed to the serenity of our work. The last but not the least, we are very grateful for the generous hospitality we have been kindly granted.
Since the very beginning of our meeting, King Abdullah has focused the objectives of this Conference on Dialogue with a courageous speech when he declared: ” If we wish this historic meeting to succeed, we must focus on the common denominators that unite us, namely deep faith in God, noble principles, and lofty moral values which constitute the essence of religion”.
During these days, it became obvious that it is possible to meet, to look at each other, to respect our respective faiths, to learn a new manner of walking on the path of dialogue. New friendships have sprouted. New inspiration emerged.
It appears to me that we stressed the many convictions we share in common:
- faith in the oneness of God the author of life;
- responsibility of preserving creation and the resources of the earth that have been entrusted to us by our Creator;
- the sacred character of the human person and of his or her dignity and the fundamental rights which stem from it:
- a common concern to give youth ethical and religious principles.
- the power of love that every believer holds;
- the centrality of natural law.
But now that we reach the end of our Conference, we have to look at the future. Some proposals have been formulated and are being handed over to the General Secretary Dr Al-Turki. We can suppose also that H.M. the King will be duly informed and that eventually other initiatives will be submitted to our consideration in the future in order that the richness of the experience of these last days be kept and turn to good account.
Before concluding my remarks, I would like to share with you two personal considerations.
The first one, we have to make the richness of our convictions and thoughts available to all the members of the societies to which we belong, in particular I am thinking of the necessity to encourage the study of religions in an objective manner in schools and universities.
My second conviction is that, as believers, we constitute a gift for society. First of all, witnessing to a life of prayer both individual and communal, we recall that “man does not live on bread alone” and we show the necessity of an interior life. Secondly, Jews, Christians and Muslims show that religions are not a source of tension. On the contrary, they are a tremendous positive potential for the humanization of the whole of society. This reality makes it imperative that religious freedom be considered beyond the important necessity of having places of worship – this is the least one can ask for. Religious freedom must also include the possibility for the believers to take an active part in public dialogue through cultural, political and social responsibilities in which they must be models.
So looking at the future, I think three goals are urgent to realize:
- to further mutual knowledge, respect and collaboration between us:
- to encourage the study if religions in an objective manner;
- to train people for interreligious dialogue.
Listening to the interventions of the last days, I have been thinking that, over the last years, we fundamentally have progressed from tolerance to encounter to arrive at dialogue. But stating that, I do not intend to say that all religions are more or less the same. No! What I mean is that all those who search for God have equal dignity.
As you know, Pope Benedict the XVI has always warned against an interreligious dialogue which would end in syncretism. We all know that interreligious dialogue cannot be built on ambiguity.
I think that as we are about to leave Madrid, we feel more confident in the future. As believers, Jews, Christians and Muslims do not believe in fate. We know that, gifted by God with a heart and intelligence, we can change, with His help, the course of history in order that our lives be in accord with the project of the Creator, that is to say to make of humanity an authentic family.
But having said that, we must be humble. A long pilgrimage, a long journey is awaiting us until the day when we stop on the threshold of mystery, "…the Mystery of God where man is grasped instead of grasping, where he worships instead of reasoning, where he himself is conquered, instead of conquering." (Karl Rahner)