Benedict XVI at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center: “God’s irruptive presence”

The Holy Father’s speech at the "Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center" in a meeting of people representing different religions in the region of the Holy Land.

Of note are his comments applicable to inculturation and also the internet.

My emphases and comments.

Dear Brother Bishops,

Distinguished Religious Leaders,

Dear Friends,

It is a source of great joy for me to meet with you this evening. I wish to thank His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal for his kind words of welcome spoken on behalf of everyone present. I reciprocate the warm sentiments expressed and gladly greet all of you and the members of the groups and organizations you represent.

"God said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your kindred and your father’s house for a land I shall show you’ … so Abram went … and took his wife Sarah with him" (Gen 12:1-5). God’s irruptive call, which marks the beginning of the history of our faith traditions, was heard in the midst of man’s ordinary daily existence. And the history that ensued was shaped, not in isolation, but through the encounter with Egyptian, Hittite, Sumerian, Babylonian, Persian, and Greek cultures.

Faith is always lived within a culture. [This reminds me of the Holy Father's remark in his book Jesus of Nazareth on the nature of Holy Scripture.] The history of religion shows that a community of believers proceeds by degrees of faithfulness to God, drawing from and shaping the culture it meets[Exactly!  This is the same concept I apply to inculturation of the Church's liturgy.  But there is a logical priority in this simultaneous exchange!] This same dynamic is found in individual believers from the great monotheistic traditions: attuned to the voice of God, like Abraham, we respond to his call and set out seeking the fulfillment of his promises, striving to obey his will, forging a path in our own particular culture.

Today, nearly four thousand years after Abraham, the encounter of religions with culture occurs not simply on a geographical plane. Certain aspects of globalization and in particular the world of the internet have created a vast virtual culture, ["virtual culture"] the worth of which is as varied as its countless manifestations. Undoubtedly much has been achieved to create a sense of closeness and unity within the world-wide human family. Yet, at the same time, the boundless array of portals through which people so readily access undifferentiated sources of information can easily become an instrument of increasing fragmentation: [and a declining ability of young people to interact properly with other people]  the unity of knowledge is shattered and the complex skills of critique, discernment and discrimination learned through academic and ethical traditions are at times bypassed or neglected[Too true.  This is one reason why I present some of these texts with running commentary.]

The question naturally arises then as to what contribution religion makes to the cultures of the world against the backdrop of rapid globalization[Remember my constant mantra?  Pope Benedict is working to revitalize our Catholic identity.  If we don't know who we are, then we cannot contribute to the world at large.] Since many are quick to point out the readily apparent differences between religions, as believers or religious persons we are presented with the challenge to proclaim with clarity what we share in common.

Abraham’s first step in faith, and our steps to or from the synagogue, church, mosque or temple, tread the path of our single human history, unfolding along the way, we might say, to the eternal Jerusalem (cf. Rev 21:23). Similarly, every culture with its inner capacity to give and receive gives expression to the one human nature. Yet, the individual is never fully expressed through his or her own culture, but transcends it in the constant search for something beyond. From this perspective, dear friends, we see the possibility of a unity which is not dependent upon uniformity. While the differences we explore in inter-religious dialogue may at times appear as barriers, they need not overshadow the common sense of awe and respect for the universal, for the absolute and for truth, which impel religious peoples to converse with one another in the first place. Indeed it is the shared conviction that these transcendent realities have their source in – and bear traces of – the Almighty that believers uphold before each other, our organizations, our society, our world. In this way not only do we enrich culture but we shape it: [Right.  Again... if we do not know who we are as Catholics, we won't have anything to give to the world at large as Catholics.] lives of religious fidelity echo God’s irruptive presence and so form a culture not defined by boundaries of time or place but fundamentally shaped by the principles and actions that stem from belief.

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. [We must not allow ourselves to be pushed from the public square.] Truth should be offered to all; it serves all members of society[We must resist those Catholic politicians who say that they cannot vote against, for example, abortion, because we cannot "impose" our beliefs on a country.  That incorrectly frames the dynamic.] 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.  [I think that "dialogue" of cultures is certainly applicable to what is going on in the West.]

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. [Which makes our era different from all those which preceded.] 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 inter-religious 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. [indeed] 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!

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Benedict XVI at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center: “God’s irruptive presence”

  1. Ann says:

    Internet culture can be a fun way to meet people with common interests, but to make it a healthy interaction requires that the people involved meet each other in the real world as well. This can be done by attending events at Church, where it is possible to meet up with people you have interacted with online; or at conventions which draw from a larger population. The idea of gathering and meeting in a public forum is a healthy one and one that needs to be added to the internet experience.

    The value of this I have found when I have attended events which drew from a larger population and where I met some of the people with whom I interact online. This can be a lot of fun, and adds a great deal to the internet culture by bringing it into contact with the culture in the physical realm.

    I used to belong to a singles group, Ave Maria, and they did a lot of bringing the internet culture of Ave Maria singles into the real world by having gatherings such as cruises and retreats. I liked that aspect of that particular small internet group. I’d like to see other groups do more of it, and some do.

    Internet when used for connecting, rather than as an escape from the real world, is a pretty wonderful tool. IMHO.

    I very much like what Pope Benedict XVI has to say about it, both its strengths and its weaknesses.

  2. Brian says:

    “The question naturally arises then as to what contribution religion makes to the cultures of the world against the backdrop of rapid globalization. [Remember my constant mantra? Pope Benedict is working to revitalize our Catholic identity. If we don’t know who we are, then we cannot contribute to the world at large.]”

    “Indeed it is the shared conviction that these transcendent realities have their source in – and bear traces of – the Almighty that believers uphold before each other, our organizations, our society, our world. In this way not only do we enrich culture but we shape it: [Right. Again… if we do not know who we are as Catholics, we won’t have anything to give to the world at large as Catholics.] lives of religious fidelity echo God’s irruptive presence and so form a culture not defined by boundaries of time or place but fundamentally shaped by the principles and actions that stem from belief.”

    Father, to both statements, you comment that the Pope is working to revitalize Catholic identity. Here, however, Pope Benedict is not talking to Catholics, but to Jews, Muslims, Orthodox, Protestants, (and others?). If these statements are true of all these religions, and all these religions share these “transcendent realities,” it is difficult for me to see how this revitalizes our Catholic identity.

    Here too:

    “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.”

    How can two truth claims contradict one another? How can these religions, which contradict one another all be true? They differ by the “medium by which we understand the discovery and communication of truth” but they all share “truth’s power”?

    I don’t understand.

    Did any Pope, prior to Vatican II, write in such a manner?

  3. Matt says:

    chalice…this is paten….your made of worthy and precious metal

  4. Regina says:

    This is the Pope’s ecumenical approach to people he has absolutely nothing in common with, but he’s gotta say something nice because he is a guest in their country. He is very gracious and sincere in his appeal for a common goal, the desire to share “something in common”, a belief in a God that teaches us to respect one another regardless of our differences. When he says “We see the possibility of a unity which is not dependent upon uniformity”, he’s obviously not promoting an orthodox Catholic identity, but rather expressing very eloquently and intellectually a variation of one Rodney King’s lament: “Why can’t we just all get along?” The Pope says it rather beautifully, doesn’t he?

  5. Go to the head of the class, Brian! You are noting first hand why the SSPX has been highly critical of the modern popes for decades and why Abp. Lefebvre consecrated the four Bishops-he believed the Church would end with his death. When you read the Pope’s statement it does not make sense as you so correctly point out.

    No one can explain to me why he is there. After two thousand years every one knows exactly what each religion teaches. What else is there to explain?

  6. Jordanes says:

    William H. Phelan said: why Abp. Lefebvre consecrated the four Bishops-he believed the Church would end with his death.

    I suppose it’s quite possible Msgr. Lefebvre suffered from a despaired, fearful hubris of as immense proportions as you suggested, perhaps like Elijah at Mt. Horeb.

    When you read the Pope’s statement it does not make sense as you so correctly point out.

    There’s nothing wrong with what the Pope said, and Brian’s comment does not pertain to anything the Pope said.

    No one can explain to me why he is there.

    To help people find the truth and live it, which if they do will lead them into the Catholic Church.

    After two thousand years every one knows exactly what each religion teaches. What else is there to explain?

    Well then, I guess the Story is over now and there’s nothing more to tell. Better let Jesus know so He can come and judge the living and the dead.

    Everyone does NOT know what each religion teaches. Most people, Catholics included, don’t even know what the Church teaches.

  7. David Kastel says:

    Father Z,

    Brian is exactly correct. This statement of the Pope does nothing to foster “Catholic identity.”

    This statement is the typical ecumenical/inter-religious “dialogue” supporting not faith in the teaching of the Catholic Church – and the Catholic practices which deepen and spread that faith – but faith in the lowest common denominator, which inevitably results in the decline of particularly Catholic practices and the death of Catholic identity. LEX ORANDI, LEX CREDENDI!!!

    When with the Orthodox, we’ll downgrade the papacy and avoid the Catholic doctrine of original sin, when among Protestants we’ll ignore the sacrificial nature of the mass and priesthood, when among the Jews we’ll ignore Christ, when among the Buddhists we’ll ignore the personhood of one God, etc, etc, etc. If you wish to “dialogue” with atheists as well, then it ends in secular humanism.

  8. Katie says:

    I think the Pope is making as generous a gesture as possible in order to get some measure of protection for Christians in Moslem countries. But for Catholics the statements sound as though they were written by a committee of Martino, Martini et al.

  9. craig says:

    “No one can explain to me why he is there.”

    To help people find the truth and live it, which if they do will lead them into the Catholic Church.

    Jordanes is correct. Benedict is not afraid. He proposes first of all that people seek the truth, trusting that Jesus meant it when He said those who seek shall find. He proposes secondly that God is rational, and that therefore the one who comes to believe in Him grows more rational, not less. These two propositions are at the heart of almost every message Benedict delivers in non-Christian fora.

    The second of these propositions is aimed squarely at the centers of both secularism and Islam. Secularism embraces reason while rejecting God, pretending that reason can long exist in His absence; Islam embraces God while rejecting reason, pretending that reason is not part of His essence. Benedict is simply pricking the consciences of his non-Catholic hearers, encouraging them to notice the contradictions of their own philosophy. The folk he is aiming at are fixed in their distorted perception; they first need to be need to be shown how they do not see things clearly.

  10. David Kastel says:

    “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”

    How are we as Catholics supposed to respect what differentiates us from these other religions when what differentiates us is that they preach falsehood?

  11. Ernest Josep says:

    I would like to have your opinion about the pictures in my notebook. Honest opinion of the photos you like and the ones you do not like.
    Suggestions and criticisms.
    You can write an anonymous post.
    I am especially interested in critical views.
    thanks. http://miradasdesdejerusalen.blogspot.com/

  12. craig says:

    How are we as Catholics supposed to respect what differentiates us from these other religions when what differentiates us is that they preach falsehood?

    By not pretending that we agree where we do not, and equally not pretending that we disagree where we do not.