Celebrating Mercy with Believers of Other Religions is a concise and simple compendium, edited by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, mainly addressed to Bishops’ Conferences and through them, to all Catholics. At the same time, we would be pleased if this proves useful to believers of other religions.
Introduction by Cardinal Tauran
In Misericordiae Vultus, the Bull calling for the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis described the path that led to the Jubilee and expressed the following wish: “I trust that this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God will foster an encounter with these religions (Judaism and Islam) and with other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination” (Misericordiae Vultus, n. 23).
We decided to act upon Pope Francis’ urging to encounter the various religious traditions with a focus on mercy, in order to continue on the path of dialogue, overcoming difficulties that unfortunately, still exist and are known to us all.
Our motivation for this compendium is to live this year of grace with our brothers and sisters from different religions. The theme of mercy is actually found in the spirituality of other religious traditions; with this commonality the possibility emerges of sharing moments of spirituality and of interreligious dialogue, as well as concrete works of charity to benefit the needy.
Recently we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the Conciliar Declaration Nostra aetate (October 28,1965). This document, still timely and inspiring and considered a milestone in the evolution of interreligious dialogue, reminds us that: “In our time, when day by day mankind is being drawn closer together, and the ties between different peoples are becoming stronger, the Church examines more closely her relationship to non-Christian religions. In her task of promoting unity and love among men, indeed among nations, she considers above all in this declaration what men have in common and what draws them to fellowship” (Nostra aetate, 1). This simple compendium we have prepared should be read precisely in the same spirit: that is, a call to look at what we share together with believers of other religions which then invites us into to live our common destiny together.
Religions are the living expression of the soul of peoples and each of these religions testifies to the fact that the human person has been in the search for God for thousands of years; the Catholic Church has been involved in dialogue with religious traditions in every part of the world, at varying levels and with different degrees of intensity. As Catholics, we are urged by Jesus to be the “yeast and ferment” in midst of the world. Therefore, with the occasion of the Jubilee of Mercy, our task is then to proclaim the merciful God made Man who turns His gaze towards all men and women, excluding none.
We are to be witnesses, as Pope Francis urges us, of a Church which goes out untiringly to proclaim a merciful God reviving in a world tired of violence and pain, a profound desire for mercy. Saint John Paul II also reminds us that: “Modern man often anxiously wonders about the solution to the terrible tensions which have built up in the world and which entangle humanity. And if at times he lacks the courage to utter the word ‘mercy’, or if in his conscience empty of religious content he does not find the equivalent, so much greater is the need for the Church to utter this word, not only in her own name but also in the name of all the men and women of our time” (Encyclical Letter Dives in Misericordia John Paul II, n. 15, 1980).
Let me explain the rationale for this publication. First of all, this compendium is of itself a product of interreligious collaboration. We have, in fact, asked experts belonging to other religious traditions to contribute to this text. In presenting the different religions, we maintained the same approach, that of elaborating on the theme of mercy. Certain excerpts from the sacred texts of the various religious traditions are presented for reflection. Aware that some religions do not have sacred texts, nevertheless, they have concepts and ideas inspired by mercy which are also included.
The religions that are described in this text are listed in alphabetical order. As for Christianity since this text is meant for the Bishops’ Conferences, it seems unnecessary to elaborate on this topic; however, should there be an interest, readers are referred to the valuable and useful texts that are published for the Jubilee and are found on the Jubilee’s official website at: http://www.iubilaeummisericordiae.va.
Several excerpts from Pope Francis’s texts on interreligious dialogue are also included. It would not be possible to include everything Pope Francis has said regarding interreligious dialogue, nor would it be the place to do so. Included are excerpts from the Encyclical Letters Lumen Fidei and Laudato si’, from the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium as well as several speeches including, the Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee, Misericordiae Vultus.
Finally, while presenting a number of suggestions on how to live and celebrate this Extraordinary Holy Year with believers from other religions, in an effort to be faithful to our vocation: promoting and supporting local Churches in their outreach in interreligious dialogue.
It is in this sense that we offer all that is gathered in this publication. Limiting ourselves to introductory thoughts that would help Catholics broaden their outlook on the great richness of human spirituality, the hope is to develop an appreciation of what is true, noble and good in every religious tradition. In particular, the theme of mercy offers the opportunity for a commonality in feeling and action among believers, which is the sincere hope of Pope Francis.
It is sincerely desired that interreligious dialogue be based on mutual respect and thus establish bonds of true and real friendship between men and women belonging to different religious traditions. While helping Catholics to appreciate and learn more about other religious traditions, we realise that we cannot ignore nor compromise the essence of our faith, nor relinquish our identity. Openness and respect towards other religious traditions do not create conflict with the Christian faith, nor with the responsibility of the Church to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who freely listen. The Church teaches that, in order to be good Christians, there needs to be an open and respectful attitude towards our neighbours, irrespective of the religious tradition to which they belong. Therefore, we invite all the Catholic faithful avoid building walls, and instead to go out and walk along the path of mercy together with their neighbours of different faiths.
My heartfelt thanks go to Dr. Maria Laura Marazzi for having suggested and coordinated this project, to the Under-Secretary, Rev. F. Indunil Kodithuwakku, for having edited the sections on Buddhism, Confucianism, Shintoism and Taoism, to the Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, Head of the Islam Section and Rev. F. Markus Solo for notes on Islam, and to Msgr. Santiago Michael for his contribution on Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism, to Dr. Sabrina Fieni for her assistance in bibliographical research, to Sr. Judith Zoebelein for English edition and to entire staff of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Sincere thanks to H.E. Msgr.Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, Secretary, for his work in revising the texts.
Furthermore, I am particularly thankful to Rev. F. Francis Anekwe Oborji from the Pontifical Urban University, for having devoted his time and talent to this project, in editing the section on traditional religions; and to Msgr. Pier Francesco Fumagalli (Italy) and Rev. Fr. Norbert Hofmann, SDV (Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Vatican City) for their notes on Judaism.
Finally, I would like to thank the following people for their contribution, advice and support: Prof. Asanga Tilakaratne (Sri Lanka) for Buddhism; Prof. Umberto Bresciani (Taipei, Taiwan) for Confucianism; Dr. Harshad Sanghrajka (Great Britain) for Jainism; Swami Chidanand Saraswati (India) for Hinduism; Dr. Mohammed Sammak (Lebanon) for Islam; Prof. Takeshi Mitsuhashi, Prof. Keiko Momosaki, Rev. F. Franco Sottocornola (Japan) for Shintoism; Dr. Brinder Singh Mahon and Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia (Great Britain) for Sikhism; Prof. Vincent Shen (Canada) and Prof. Elisa Maria Giunipero (Italy) for Taoism; Dr. Homi Dhalla (India) for Zoroastrianism.
Jean-Louis Card. Tauran
President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue