Pope Francis tends to see his core social causes, such as environmental protection, also as promising pathways for dialogue with other Christians, followers of other faiths, and the world at large, on the theory that coming together in defense of shared values will build friendships.

That’s a beguiling vision, and judging by an unusual seminary that took place in Mumbai, India, this week, it may actually have some legs.

On Monday, an event titled “The Teachings of Pope Francis on Ecology and the Care for Nature with its Parallels in Hinduism” was staged, jointly sponsored by K. J. Somaiya Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham, a Mumbai center devoted to fostering Hindu and Indian values, and Argentina’s Consulate General in the city.

During the opening ceremony, the center’s director, Dr. Kala Acharya, laid out what she sees as the main points of contact between Hinduism and Christianity when it comes to ecology.

Later, Auxiliary Bishop John Rodrigues of Bombay (the former name of Mumbai) explained the significance of an “encyclical letter,” the ecclesiastical genre of Pope Francis’s 2015 magna carta on the environment, Laudato Si’.

Rodrigues pointed out this was the first time a pontiff had devoted an entire encyclical to the theme of environmentalism and creation, and stressed that Pope Francis, in continuity with previous popes, has called the world to an “ecological conversion.”

Speaking on behalf of the pontiff’s native country, Acting Consul General Alejandro Zothner Meyer stressed the importance of interreligious dialogue in today’s world, and said his government attaches particular importance to the cause.

Throughout the event, the intermingling of relgious and essentially secular perspectives was striking.

Swami Paramatmananda Saraswati, for instance, who leads an umbrella group of the different Hindu traditions in India called the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, argued that Hinduism respects diversity and does not attempt to homogenize or eliminate environmental diversity.

Dileep Kulkarni spoke about his own life as a concrete experience of living the “Green Hindu” philosophy.

Mohammad Sanaullah from Aligarh Muslim University gave an Islamic perspective on ecology, suggesting that Islam provides an outlook both theological and ethical, on a plethora of ecological issues such as biodiversity, eco-equilibrium, sustainable development, etc.

“The Earth and everything in it belongs not to humans but to God, the One,” he said. “Man only acts as the trustee, and has a certain responsibility for the earth.”

Mariano Iturbe, an adjunct professor in philosophy at the center, spoke about the Christian view of ecology as expressed in Laudato Si.

“Integral ecology leads us to take care of everything related to the environment and to the needs of human beings,” he said, articulating the pope’s view.

The seminar room was packed with diplomats from Ecuador, Hungary, Poland and the Honorary Consul of Seychelles, and with academics from various institutions as well as with the presence of many students.

Meyer, the Argentine consul, spoke to Crux about the importance of the event.

“Our Constitution (1853) includes a clause that defends religious freedom,” he said. “We consider that a natural derivation from this principle is to promote the interreligious dialogue at a national level and at the international level.

“Argentina is a secular country, although we have a majority who are Catholic. We have a very important percentage of other Christian denominations, the largest Muslim community in South America and the Jewish community is one of the largest in the world,” he said.

“We think that organizing an event like this one in India is an important landmark,” Meyer said.

“The aim is to focus on a major document of the social teaching of the Catholic Church that talks about the protection of the environment, and to find out its parallelism with the teachings of Hinduism.

“We consider interreligious dialogue as a very important way to solve some of the main problems of humanity,” Meyer said.

Naturally, Meyer said, the fact that the pope who put out Laudato Si’ is an Argentinian himself doesn’t hurt the cause.

“Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, first as Auxiliary Bishop and then as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, contributed personally to interreligious dialogue with many Protestants, Jewish and Muslim leaders of Argentina,” he said.

“As Pope Francis, he continues with this trend. This encyclical letter, Laudato Si, that he presented to all men and women of good will, is a call to all of us, to take care of “our common house”, our planet, before it is too late.

“We want to put a seed of peace, awareness, dialogue between three of the main religions of the world and between Argentina and India, both developing countries, with many differences but that share many common challenges,” Meyer said.