Goans have deep religious fervour
Nov 25, 2006
Goa’s rich culture and harmony among faiths may have impressed Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture (PCC), but the top Vatican official has reminded Goans of obstacles that could impede dialogue between faiths.
(Goa's Herald) PANJIM, NOV 24 — In an exclusive interview to Herald, Cardinal Poupard (76) — who is also president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue (PCIRD) — outlines the nature of inter-religious dialogue and the need to collaborate with each other.
Is the PCIRD a response to the growing influence of other religions or is it part of the Church’s plan to “accommodate” other religions?
It is neither to accommodate nor is it a response, but it flows from the Second Vatican Council. The church realised that Christians live among many cultures and many religions. The church spoke of an interaction of Christians with cultures and an interaction of Christians with other religions.
In a multi-cultural society like India, where Christianity is a minority religion, there is a tendency to perceive inter-religious dialogue as evangelism, thereby creating suspicion among other faiths. Elsewhere, others may think that if inter-religious dialogue is so important, has the proclamation of the Gospel message lost its urgency.
The answer again is no and no. We must be cautious against two tendencies. One tendency is to close ourselves and to say all other religions are evil. The church does not accept this tendency. Jesus Himself taught us to be open to others. The other tendency is to say everything is equal and this too is unacceptable as it would lead to relativism and syncretism. Therefore, we need to have a dialogue, always with the intention of presenting Jesus to others.
How does the PCIRD understand inter-religious dialogue? Is it seen as “tolerant”, “mutual respect” or “accommodative”?
The first aim is to know other religions and then to have mutual respect. Both know each other and should respect each other. Religions can be a witness to God in a world filled with consumerism and materialism. Religions need to collaborate among each other for civilisation of the world.
What are the obstacles that can slow down dialogue between religions?
Suspicion among other faiths, violence and war are obstacles to the dialogue between religions. Different situations pose different challenges. For instance in the west, people always ask “How can you have a dialogue with the Muslims at this moment? Because of the media, most people tend to think that all Muslims are terrorists. Thanks to God, there are millions of Muslims who never even think of terrorism.
What has been your experience during your brief stay in Goa?
It has been a very positive experience and Goa has a very rich cultural reality. When I met Cardinal Ivan Dias in Rome and told him that I was going to Goa, he was very happy and told me that I must visit the tomb of St Francis Xavier. On the same day, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI also encouraged me to visit Bom Jesus Basilica.
When we celebrated Mass at Pilar on Monday, I was very touched by the fervour and deep religiosity of the Goans. During that time, I could rediscover my own faith.
What is your message to the Goan Catholics who live in a multi-cultural society?
The Goan people have given me a very beautiful witness to their faith. They have shown me the task of the PCC. They have shown it through the testimony of their lives, that they are living this evangelisation of cultures. Continue being proud of being Catholics, so that you can present Christ to others with gentleness and kindness.