ROME — Against the backdrop of an increasingly secularized world, a senior Vatican official told leading representatives of both Judaism and Islam on Thursday that “God is not dead.”
French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said it’s a paradox that religions are associated with violence, the result of minority groups of terrorists and fundamentalists of various faiths committing criminal acts in the name of religion, particularly within Islam.
“But obviously, this isn’t the real Islam,” Tauran said, who serves as the Vatican’s top official for dialogue with other faiths. Religions, he added, aren’t the problem but the solution for international security.
Speaking at a panel for the annual meeting in the Italian city of Rimini, a massive annual gathering organized by the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation that generally draws 700,000 people, Tauran also said that believers “are a part of this world, a world God loves.”
As such, he said, they should be recognized for what they are: “Citizens of the world, and not residents seeking asylum.”
“We live in a very paradoxical world,” Tauran said. “On the one hand, there are those who proclaim the death of God, those who say that we do not need God. On the other, just look at the newsstand: how many times is God mentioned in the newspapers?”
Tauran, 72, is widely seen as one of the key Vatican officials closest to Pope Francis.
Tauran also said that Christians, Jews, and Muslims have three challenges: “Identity, otherness, and sincerity of our intentions.”
Sincerity, he said, is the knowledge that when religious dialogue occurs, it’s not with the intention of converting the other.
“Interreligious dialogue can promote conversion, but that is not the goal,” Tauran said. “The purpose of the dialogue is to walk a piece of the path toward truth. It’s very exciting and delicate.”
Tauran was participating in a panel called “Religions are part of the solution, they are not the problem,” which included Azzedine Gaci, rector of Othman Mosque in Villeurbanne, France, and Haim Koria, chief rabbi of France.
“Tolerance is a term that implies almost surreptitiously the idea of acceptance and not sharing the idea of someone else,” said Koria.
“We must take a step back and think instead about the need for the existence of the other as an essential condition for my own existence,” he said. “This is proof that the otherness enriches the human being and is a sine qua non for its existence.”
The Rimini meeting takes place during the last days of August in the coastal city that gives name to the meeting. It draws the cream of Italian political and social life, and some of the Vatican’s heavyweights.
This year, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent a video message.
Pope Francis and Italian president Sergio Mattarella also sent messages read or shown during the first of the six-day meeting, which began Thursday.