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New Vatican official: life in war zone taught me value of dialogue

By on Thursday, 6 September 2012

A soldier patrols the border of South Sudan amid skirmishes (Photo: CNS)

A soldier patrols the border of South Sudan amid skirmishes (Photo: CNS)

Fr Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot has said that living in a war zone taught him the importance of interreligious dialogue “as an instrument for overcoming conflict and drawing together from the source of peace”.

The 60-year-old Spanish priest, who did missionary work in Egypt and in Sudan before becoming head of Rome’s Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, was named secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in June.

Doing pastoral work in the Sudanese Diocese of El-Obeid during the civil war “was an experience I survived, tested, but very much enriched both on a human and a priestly level,” he said in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

“In that extreme situation, I understood how important dialogue is,” he said.

Now, as Egypt struggles to fulfill the promises of the Arab Spring pro-democracy movement and as Sudan and South Sudan try to recover from the civil war, dialogue continues to be essential, he said.

In Egypt, “the transformations underway must take into account the central element at the heart of the Arab Spring movement and that is respect for the human person and his or her rights, particularly the freedom of expression,” Fr Ayuso said.

In Sudan and South Sudan, he said, dialogue is necessary to promote full rights for members of all ethnic and religious groups and to bring people together to establish government systems based on justice, equality and the rule of law.

“Dialogue between religions, while not concerned with political questions, can make a contribution to the recognition of those values that are at the basis of justice and peace, both within a country and in relations with other states,” he said.

Fr Ayuso said his experience in interreligious dialogue has been a blessing because it allowed him to meet “so many men and women of good will who believe in the importance of dialogue among religions and cultures, and who work together to promote the respect for one another, the mutual understanding and cooperation that are at the basis of the work the church has carried forward with great dedication since the Second Vatican Council.”

  • Sweetjae

    That is the essence of Religious Liberty taught by VII and NOT the abuse of it by the modernist nor the flawed interpretation of SSPX and Sedes.

  • Gildaswiseman

    The
    Church, prior to the Council, always taught religious tolerance. The
    schema on religious liberty was a document that created much
    disagreement between the Council Father’s. As it is well known the
    liberal influence won the day despite the teachings of previous Popes
    against the new concepts that were and are opposed to tradition.

    Dialogue
    has never been seen as a problem for the Church, or the SSPX for that
    matter, within its missionary function to win souls for Christ. The
    problem is the novel idea that liberty is the freedom of all men to
    practice their chosen religion. It is seen therefore that the dignity
    of mankind is based upon this liberty. The traditional teaching of
    the Church is somewhat different. The dignity of mankind is founded
    upon the truth. “The truth will make you free” The truth of
    course being, that there is no salvation without Christ and his Holy
    Catholic Church.

    There
    are countless example around the world were the errors of religious
    liberty have caused a wholesale loss of faith. The separation, after
    the Council, from Catholic States and the Holy See have allowed
    protestant influences to make huge headways into these ‘Catholic
    countries’. The protections by the Church- State against error and
    secular influences have been systematically dismantled because of the
    new concept of religious liberty. Also many people have joined free
    mason groups arguing that it is permissible by the teaching on
    religious liberty.( I personally know people who have done this.)
    Dialogue, or comprehensive diplomatic relations between the Holy See
    and other religions is obviously very important, but it should never
    be at the expense of truth or the missionary activity of the Church.