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'Courtyard of the Gentiles' opens in Paris

Catholic World News - March 25, 2011

The “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” a Vatican initiative to promote dialogue with unbelievers, opened a 2-day event in Paris on March 24.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, told an opening session at UNESCO headquarters that the Church is inviting non-believers “to come on a voyage with believers through the desert.” The Italian cardinal explained that the initiative was designed to encourage exploration of the “ultimate questions.” Lacing his presentation with citations from secular thinkers, Cardinal Ravasi pointed to a common search for meaning in life.

Former Italian premier Giuliano Amato offered his own reflections on the need for shared common beliefs, noting that democracy is endangered if there are no such understandings. “Democratic societies are founded on the hypothesis that everyone can differentiate between just and unjust, good and evil, and everyone can find the limits” he said. Without that understanding, he said, democracy “doesn’t work any more.”

The Courtyard initiative in Paris began on Thursday at UNESCO headquarters, and continued on Friday with sessions at the Sorbonne and the Institut de France. The opening session of the initiative will conclude with a public festival in the courtyard outside the basilica of Notre Dame. Similar events are planned for several other Western cities in coming months. Pope Benedict XVI—who had originally proposed the Courtyard initiative in a 2009 address to the Roman Curia—was to address the meeting on Friday by a video hookup.

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  • Posted by: bkmajer3729 - Mar. 26, 2011 4:59 PM ET USA

    Wow!! What a great opportunity for those who can be at Notre Dame! I hope this is the start of something great. Let's bring this discussion to the US.

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