Part 21 of a series of reflections on Pope Francis’ papal exhortation Evangelii Gaudium
In the pursuit of evangelization Pope Francis speaks of the importance of dialogue. “238. Evangelization also involves the path of dialogue. For the Church today, three areas of dialogue stand out where she needs to be present in order to promote full human development and to pursue the common good: dialogue with states, dialogue with society – including dialogue with cultures and the sciences – and dialogue with other believers who are not part of the Catholic Church.”
He gives primacy of place to the gift of peace. “239. The Church proclaims ‘the Gospel of peace’ (Eph 6:15) and she wishes to cooperate with all national and international authorities in safeguarding this immense universal good… The principal author, the historic subject of this process, is the people as a whole and their culture, and not a single class, minority, group or elite. We do not need plans drawn up by a few for the few, or an enlightened or outspoken minority which claims to speak for everyone. It is about agreeing to live together, a social and cultural pact.”
He calls for the art of trust and the art of peace in dialogue with science and reason: “244… We must never forget that we are pilgrims journeying alongside one another. This means that we must have sincere trust in our fellow pilgrims, putting aside all suspicion or mistrust, and turn our gaze to what we are all seeking: the radiant peace of God’s face. Trusting others is an art and peace is an art. Jesus told us: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ (Mt 5:9). In taking up this task, also among ourselves, we fulfill the ancient prophecy: ‘They shall beat their swords into ploughshares’ (Is 2:4).”
Furthermore, Pope Francis lays out the principles for interreligious dialogue beginning on section 250. In particular, it is worth noting our responsibility to welcome Muslims and not make blanket judgments about them: “253… We Christians should embrace with affection and respect Muslim immigrants to our countries in the same way that we hope and ask to be received and respected in countries of Islamic tradition. I ask and I humbly entreat those countries to grant Christians freedom to worship and to practice their faith, in light of the freedom which followers of Islam enjoy in Western countries! Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”
In a world where terrorism is such a threat, it is good for us to be reminded that there are good people in all religions and among agnostics and non-believers. It is easy for us as believers to judge others from a distance or a narrow perspective. “258. Starting from certain social issues of great importance for the future of humanity, I have tried to make explicit once again the inescapable social dimension of the Gospel message and to encourage all Christians to demonstrate it by their words, attitudes and deeds.”
You can access the document at www.vatican.va and then click on Apostolic Exhortations.