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'Courtyard of Gentiles' aims to address ultimate questions, not prompt conversion

March 24, 2011

A new Vatican initiative to open dialogue with the secular world, the “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” should not be seen as an effort to convert unbelievers, according to the Vatican official responsible for the venture.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, told the French daily La Croix: “Our task is to conduct a discourse on “ultimate realities.” The dialogue, he said, would involve “not only God, the Word, and transcendence, but also—and this is the program for the Courtyard—the great existential questions: life, love, death…”

The Italian prelate said that even thoroughly secularized societies are finding these questions unavoidable. The interest in New Age ideas, magic, and supernatural claims all testify to the abiding importance of these questions, he said. He observed that important writers like Dostoievski, Pascal, Dante, and Nietzsche all ponder the same ultimate questions.

Asked whether the Courtyard of the Gentiles should be seen as a place for evangelization, however, Cardinal Ravasi answered unequivocally: “Certainly not.” He explains:

We are like Paul at the Areopagua in Athens. We say what we believe, before those who do not believe, and those who will listen to us.


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  • Posted by: koenigj7311 - Mar. 25, 2011 1:21 AM ET USA

    What a stroke of genius! Truly! We all know apologetics preceeds effective evangelization. Cdl.Ravasi and the PCC are simply redirecting our attention to focus on the ultimate realities - the ageless questions that confront men of every time, every place, and every culture. Of course, we know the One who can satisfy man's deepest longings. Dialogue will allow us to deepen our own Faith while we discourse about matters which concern them. The Spirit will intervene at the proper time.

  • Posted by: Steve214 - Mar. 24, 2011 6:23 PM ET USA

    Well, we CERTAINLY wouldn't want anybody to convert! This appears to be more of the "there is so much good in the non-Christian (e.g., atheist) world" approach which has worked out so well. (Sarcasm font now off. :-)

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Mar. 24, 2011 3:51 PM ET USA

    Strange stuff. Why is he apologizing for evangelization? Jesus didn't.