Pope Benedict XVI
From the Jul/Aug 2009 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine
Religious belief presupposes truth. The one who believes is the one who seeks truth and lives by it. Although the medium by which we understand the discovery and communication of truth differs in part from religion to religion, we should not be deterred in our efforts to bear witness to truth’s power. Together we can proclaim that God exists and can be known, that the earth is His creation, that we are His creatures, and that He calls every man and woman to a way of life that respects His design for the world.
Friends, if we believe we have a criterion of judgment and discernment which is divine in origin and intended for all humanity, then we cannot tire of bringing that knowledge to bear on civic life. Truth should be offered to all; it serves all members of society. It sheds light on the foundation of morality and ethics, and suffuses reason with the strength to reach beyond its own limitations in order to give expression to our deepest common aspirations. Far from threatening the tolerance of differences or cultural plurality, truth makes consensus possible and keeps public debate rational, honest, and accountable, and opens the gateway to peace. Fostering the will to be obedient to the truth in fact broadens our concept of reason and its scope of application, and makes possible the genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today.
Each one of us here also knows, however, that God’s voice is heard less clearly today, and reason itself has in so many instances become deaf to the divine. Yet that “void” is not one of silence. Indeed, it is the din of egotistical demands, empty promises, and false hopes that so often invades the very space in which God seeks us. Can we then make spaces-oases of peace and profound reflection-where God’s voice can be heard anew, where His truth can be discovered within the universality of reason, where every individual, regardless of dwelling, or ethnic group, or political hue, or religious belief, can be respected as a person, as a fellow human being? In an age of instant access to information and social tendencies which engender a kind of monoculture, deep reflection against the backdrop of God’s presence will embolden reason, stimulate creative genius, facilitate critical appreciation of cultural practices, and uphold the universal value of religious belief.
Friends, the institutions and groups that you represent engage in interreligious dialogue and the promotion of cultural initiatives at a wide range of levels. From academic institutions-and here I wish to make special mention of the outstanding achievements of Bethlehem University-to bereaved parents groups, from initiatives through music and the arts to the courageous example of ordinary mothers and fathers, from formal dialogue groups to charitable organizations, you daily demonstrate your belief that our duty before God is expressed not only in our worship but also in our love and concern for society, for culture, for our world, and for all who live in this land.
Some would have us believe that our differences are necessarily a cause of division and thus at most to be tolerated. A few even maintain that our voices should simply be silenced. But we know that our differences need never be misrepresented as an inevitable source of friction or tension either between ourselves or in society at large. Rather, they provide a wonderful opportunity for people of different religions to live together in profound respect, esteem, and appreciation, encouraging one another in the ways of God. Prompted by the Almighty and enlightened by His truth, may you continue to step forward with courage, respecting all that differentiates us and promoting all that unites us as creatures blessed with the desire to bring hope to our communities and world. May God guide us along this path!
From Pope Benedict XVI’s address at his meeting with organizations for religious dialogue at the Auditorium of Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem, May 11, 2009.
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