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Ultimate questions must be addressed, Pope tells 'Courtyard' meeting

March 28, 2011

“The question of God must not be absent from the great questions of our time,” Pope Benedict XVI insisted as he addressed the first meeting of the “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” a Vatican initiative to open dialogue between believers and non-believers.

As a 2-day inaugural meeting of the Courtyard of the Gentiles concluded in Paris, the Holy Father delivered a video address to young people gathered outside the cathedral of Notre Dame. He invited all participants in the gathering “to enter the consecrated area, to pass the magnificent portal of Notre-Dame and enter the cathedral for a moment of prayer.”

For non-believers, the Pope acknowledged, this might be a prayer to a God they do not recognize. He encouraged them to “open your hearts to the Sacred Scriptures, allow yourselves to be drawn by the beauty of the music and, if you truly desire it, allow the feelings closed within you to rise towards the unknown God.”

The Pope reminded his audience that the “Courtyard of the Gentiles” was a reference from the Old Testament, to the space outside the Temple in Jerusalem where non-Jews were welcome to discuss religious affairs with Jewish officials. This arrangement allowed non-Jews to approach the God they did not know, he said. And while the arrangement excluded some people from entering the Temple, Pope Benedict observed that “Jesus Christ came to 'break down the dividing wall' between Jews and Gentiles.”

The Pope stressed the need for dialogue between believers and non-believers, and assured the latter that true religion is not a threat. Skeptics are right, he said, to “reject any deviation from religion which renders it inhuman.” Religion can be approached and judged by the standards of reason, he said. “Religions cannot be afraid of a just secularism, a secularism that is open and allows individuals to live according to what they believe in their own consciences.”


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  • Posted by: frjpharrington3912 - Mar. 29, 2011 12:08 AM ET USA

    In saying that "true religion is not a threat" the Holy Father is echoing the voice of the Church which teaches that faith and reason are inherently compatible. Since religious faith and reason have the same goal or objective, namely "truth" faith, the Pope says, purifies and elevates reason by expanding the limits of man's rational nature to "know" divine realities. The "Cross" he says, "contains the message that God himself is someone who suffers, ... that he loves us.