Cardinal Ravasi: Dialogue is the root and heritage of all religions

On the eve of the second International Day of Human Fraternity, the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture presents the pavilion of the Holy See at Expo Dubai. A space to find out about the initiatives of your Dicastery to disseminate the content of the Declaration signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar: “We are thinking of a kind of Tribunal of the Gentiles on the theme of silence, common to the Arab but also Buddhist meditation”.

Alessandro Di Bussolo – Vatican City

The pavilion of the Holy See at the Universal Exhibition in Dubai is a route designed for visitors to discover what fraternity, friendship, dialogue, encounter and the power of exchange between cultures mean. On February 4, the main celebration of the second International Day of Human Fraternity will take place in the spacious Pavilion of Sustainability, on the occasion of the anniversary of the signing of the document of the same name.

From San Francisco and the Sultan to the Abu Dhabi cabinet

The starting point of the whole installation -designed by Msgr. Tomasz Trafny, deputy commissioner of the pavilion and head of the department of science and faith of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and the architect Giuseppe Di Nicola- is the encounter between Saint Francis and Sultan Malik Al-Kāmil in 1219, while the arrival is that of Pope Francis with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyib, on February 4, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, for the signing of the Document.

The Holy See Pavilion at Expo Dubai

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, talks to us about the messages of the Pavilion and the commitment of his Dicastery in spreading the culture of brotherhood, which in this interview points the way for the great religions of return to their important, common and at the same time different heritage, of dialogue between them, “for a greater impact on contemporary society”, to halt the cultural and moral decline of the planet.

Your Eminence, the Pavilion of the Holy See at Expo Dubai is a space created precisely to give continuity to the Document on Human Fraternity three years after the signing of this important text…

In the pavilion there is also a visual, continuous and filmed representation of this event. But above all I would like to underline a presence: inside the Pavilion there is a palimpsest of the great Library and University created in the 9th century in Baghdad, with a text in Arabic, which represents the effort of the culture of the time to make knowledge of other peoples and cultures accessible to the Islamic world. It is an emblematic testimony of this cultural dialogue, but also religious.

And it is also one of the most coveted objects today, which is why many Arabs come to visit the Pavilion…

True, it is certainly one of the fundamental symbols, as is also the Latin translation of an Arabic treatise on mathematics, in which the text of Fibonacci, his famous series, is transmitted to the East, where the West had learned the if-numbers called Arabic numerals

The Holy See pavilion at Expo Dubai.

The Holy See pavilion at Expo Dubai.

A way to appreciate the richness of cultural exchanges even visually… And in the document signed in Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis and the Grand Iman Al-Tayyib launch an appeal against the cultural and moral decline of the world. How can the religions of the world act together concretely in this regard?

They can do this in two ways. The almost centripetal path: returning again to one’s great heritage. We know, for example, that the philosophical, medical, even scientific, but also, in general, literary heritage of the East has reached the West in recent centuries, each with its own vision. To the point that Thomas Aquinas, for example, had the opportunity to learn more about Aristotle thanks to the contribution of Averroes, a Muslim philosopher. In this sense, the first great gesture is to return to the great common heritage or even to the different heritages that we have, which are very fruitful. And the second movement is almost centrifugal, that is, reaching the present, identifying fundamental paths such as those indicated in the Document on Human Fraternity, for dialogue and greater impact in contemporary society. Let us reflect on what interreligious dialogue, peace, fraternity, but also authentic tolerance means, which is not only exterior, but also encounter.

Pope Francis has repeatedly requested that the Document on Human Fraternity be disseminated and studied as widely as possible. What does the Ministry of Culture do and what does it intend to do to ensure that these historical words truly become culture?

We believe we can do this precisely in terms of culture…the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue deals more with strictly religious ties. We believe that we can create, for example, a kind of Court of the Gentiles which will be dedicated to the theme of silence, which is characteristic not only of the world of Arab meditation, but also of the ancient Buddhist tradition, so that it will be a very big one. We also intend to strengthen this scientific dimension, in particular by taking into account – also through the meetings we hold with representatives of Muslim culture in general – the culture of Arab countries in terms of anthropology. It is one of the most sensitive topics, constantly stimulated nowadays by artificial intelligence. It is a subject that somehow explodes certain codified categories, which must therefore be rewritten taking into account this great evolution presented by science. And this scientific dialogue, as it has been in the past, can continue to be one of the privileged ways of meeting diversities, in the common aspiration for a deeply humanist and human vision.

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