1.“One God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all
and in all” (Eph 4:6).
In the light of these words from the Apostle Paul's Letter to the
Christians of Ephesus, today we wish to reflect on how to witness to
God the Father in dialogue with the followers of all religions.
In our reflection we have two reference-points: the Second Vatican
Council's Declaration Nostra aetate on “The Relation of the Church
to Non-Christian Religions” and the goal of the now imminent Great
The Declaration Nostra aetate laid the foundations for a new style
of dialogue in the Church's relationship with the various religions.
For its part, the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 is a privileged
opportunity to witness to this style. In Tertio millennio adveniente,
I invited people, precisely in this year dedicated to God the
Father, to take a closer look at the dialogue with the great
religions, which includes meetings in places of significance to them
(cf. nn. 52-53).
2. In Sacred Scripture the theme of the one God in relation to the
universality of the peoples seeking salvation is gradually developed
until it culminates in the full revelation in Christ. The God of
Israel, expressed by the sacred Tetragrammaton, is the God of the
patriarchs, the God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush (cf.
Ex 3) to free Israel and make it the people of the covenant. The
Book of Joshua tells how they chose the Lord at Shechem, where a
great multitude of people opted for the God who had shown himself
benevolent and provident, and forsook all other gods (cf. Jos 24).
In the religious awareness of the Old Testament, this choice
increasingly takes the form of a rigorous and universalistic
monotheism. If the Lord God of Israel is not one god among many but
the only true God, it follows that all the nations “to the end of
the earth” (Is 49:6) must be saved by him. The universal salvific
will transforms human history into a great pilgrimage of peoples
towards one destination, Jerusalem, but without loss of any of their
ethnic-cultural differences (cf. Rv 7:9). The prophet Isaiah vividly
expresses this outlook in the image of a road connecting Egypt to
Assyria, stressing that the divine blessing will join Israel, Egypt
and Assyria (cf. Is 19:23-25). All peoples, while fully preserving
their own identity, are called to turn more and more to the one God
who revealed himself to Israel.
3. This “universalistic” inspiration in the Old Testament is further
developed in the New, which reveals to us that God “desires all men
to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm 2:4).
The conviction that God is really preparing all people for salvation
is the basis of Christian dialogue with the followers of other
religious beliefs. The Council described the Church's attitude to
non-Christian religions in this way: “The Church has a high regard
for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines
which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching,
nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all
men. Yet she proclaims, and is in duty bound to proclaim without
fail, Christ who is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (Jn 14:6). In
him, in whom God reconciled all things to himself, men find the
fullness of their religious life” (Nostra aetate, n. 2).
In years past, some considered dialogue with the followers of other
religions to be opposed to proclamation, a primary duty of the
Church's mission. In fact, interreligious dialogue is an integral
part of the Church's evangelizing mission (cf. CCC, n. 856). As I
have often stressed, it is fundamental for the Church, is an
expression of her saving mission and is a dialogue of salvation (cf.
Insegnamenti VII/1 , pp. 595-599). Thus, interreligious
dialogue does not mean abandoning proclamation, but answering a
divine call so that exchange and sharing may lead to a mutual
witness of one's own religious viewpoint, deeper knowledge of one
another's convictions and agreement on certain fundamental values.
4. Reference to the common “fatherhood” of God will therefore not
prove vaguely universalistic, but will be lived by Christians with
full knowledge of that saving dialogue which comes through the
mediation of Jesus and the action of his Spirit. Thus, for example,
while taking from religions such as Islam the powerful affirmation
of the personal Absolute who transcends the cosmos and man, on our
part we can offer the witness of God in his inner Trinitarian life,
explaining that the Trinity of Persons does not diminish but
characterizes the divine unity itself.
Therefore, in religious journeys which lead to a monistic conception
of ultimate reality as an undifferentiated “Self” into which
everything is resolved, Christianity also discerns the call to
respect the deepest meaning of the divine mystery, beyond every
human word and concept. And yet it does not hesitate to affirm God's
personal transcendence, while proclaiming his universal and loving
fatherhood which is fully revealed in the mystery of his crucified
and risen Son.
May the Great Jubilee be a valuable opportunity for the followers of
all religions to grow in knowledge, esteem and love for one another
through a dialogue which will be an encounter of salvation for all!
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I extend a particular greeting to the Missionary Benedictine Sisters
of Tutzing, and I encourage them in their joyful service of the
Church's evangelizing mission. Upon all the English-speaking
pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Denmark,
Norway, Sweden, the Philippines, Japan and the United States of
America, I invoke the joy and peace of the risen Saviour.
In these joyous days of the Easter season, unfortunately many of the
world's people continue to suffer.
In addition to the ongoing tragedy in Kosovo, today I would like to
recall the “forgotten wars” which are soaking Africa in blood. From
Angola to the Great Lakes, from Congo-Brazzaville to Sierra Leone,
from Guinea-Bissau to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from the
Horn of Africa to Sudan, a long, bitter series of conflicts within
and between States continue to strike innocent people especially and
to upset the life of Catholic communities. The arrest of Bishop
Augustin Misago of Gikongoro, Rwanda, has caused particular pain and
The risen Christ says again and again to our sorely tried brothers
and sisters: “Peace be with you” (cf. Jn 20:19). May his divine
voice be heard by those who obstinately refuse to accept his message
of life! May he enlighten the blindness of those who stubbornly
pursue the tortuous ways of hatred and violence, convincing them to
decide once and for all on sincere and patient dialogue, which will
lead to beneficial solutions for everyone!
In the certainty that the power of the Resurrection is stronger than
evil, let us implore the Conqueror of sin and death so that the
desire for a peaceful and fraternal Africa may soon become a
I have closely followed reports about the situation of a group of
people kidnapped on 12 April as they were flying from Bucaramanga to
Bogotá and who are still being held against their will in northern
Colombia. I vigorously appeal to the kidnappers to stop their unjust
treatment of these people, whose rights they are seriously
violating, and to restore their freedom. This will encourage the
reconciliation process to which that entire beloved nation is
committed and for whose success I pray constantly to the God of