Vienna, Austria, Nov 26, 2012 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See is a founding observer of a new international organization for religious dialogue, which opened Nov. 26 in Vienna, Austria.
“The Centre that will be inaugurated on Monday in Vienna is a new institution, the purpose of which is to foster dialogue among religions and cultures,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Nov. 23.
“This goal is always to be looked on with favour – with a view to understanding and peaceful co-existence among peoples: a basic and an urgent need for the humanity of today and tomorrow.”
The King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue is a joint initiative of Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Austria. The Saudi king, for whom the center is named, is its primary financial backer.
Fr. Lombardi said the organization's importance is as “an opportunity and a space for dialogue,” and that “it is right that the Holy See should avail herself of the opportunity.”
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue's secretary, Father Miguel A. Guixot, will be the Vatican's representative at the center.
“This constitutes,” said Fr. Lombardi, “an important occasion for presenting the Church’s vision: of dialogue; the human person and vocation; ethics and religion; social relations; justice and peace.”
Addressing concerns about cooperation with a Saudi-backed organization, Fr. Lombardi noted that the Holy See will “not fail to bring to light her concerns for the effective respect of the fundamental rights of Christians who live in countries with a Muslim majority, in order to promote authentic and integral religious liberty.”
Saudi Arabia prohibits the practice of any religion but Islam, and Saudi law penalizes apostasy from the religion with capital punishment.
The opening of the center was marked by a symposium on best practices in interreligious dialogue.
Fr. Martin Rupprecht of the Vienna archdiocese told Vatican Radio Nov. 26 that in Austria one “special initiative” involves bringing together Catholic priests and imams, and Catholic religious sisters with female Muslim pastoral workers and religion teachers.
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue was founded in 1964 as the Secretariat of Non-Christians, and was elevated to a pontifical council in 1988. Its purpose is to foster relations with groups of non-Christian religions and all those with a religious sense.
In 2008, the council's president, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, said that in inter-religious dialogue, I “allow myself to be questioned by the convictions of others … the idea is to get to know each other, to view another’s religion with kindness and to allow oneself to be enriched by the positive aspects of his religion.”