General Audience Teachings on Interreligious Dialogue and Nostra Aetate
In Preparation for the Great Jubilee of 2000
John Paul II
of related interest: General Audience, November 29, 2000: God Offers Salvation to all the Nations
GENERAL AUDIENCE: Wednesday 21 April 1999
Dialogue is part of the Church's saving mission
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 Jubilee.
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!
GENERAL AUDIENCE: Wednesday 28 April 1999
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. The interreligious dialogue which the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente encourages as a characteristic feature of this year particularly dedicated to God the Father (cf. nn. 52-53) first of all concerns Jews, our “elder brothers”, as I called them on the occasion of my memorable meeting with the Jewish community of Rome on 13 April 1986 (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 21 April 1986, p. 6). Reflecting on the spiritual patrimony we share, the Second Vatican Council, especially in the Declaration Nostra aetate, gave a new direction to our relationship with the Jewish religion. We must reflect ever more deeply on that teaching, and the Jubilee of the Year 2000 can be a magnificent occasion to meet, possibly, in places of significance for the great monotheistic religions (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 53).
We know that, from the beginnings of the Church down to our century, relations with our Jewish brothers and sisters have unfortunately been difficult. However, throughout this long and tormented history there have been occasions of peaceful and constructive dialogue. We should recall in this regard that the first theological work entitled “Dialogue” was significantly dedicated by the philosopher and martyr Justin to his encounter with Trypho the Jew in the second century. Also of note is the vivid dialogical dimension strongly present in contemporary neo-Jewish literature, which has deeply influenced the philosophical and theological thought of the 20th-century.
2. This dialogical attitude between Christians and Jews not only expresses the general value of interreligious dialogue, but also the long journey they share leading from the Old to the New Testament. There is a long period of salvation history which Christians and Jews can view together. “The Jewish faith”, in fact, “unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant” (CCC, n. 839). This history is illumined by an immense group of holy people whose lives testify to the possession, in faith, of what they hoped for. Indeed, the Letter to the Hebrews emphasizes this response of faith throughout the history of salvation (cf. Heb 11).
Today the courageous witness of faith should also mark the collaboration of Christians and Jews in proclaiming and realizing God's saving plan for all humanity. If his plan is interpreted in a different way regarding the acceptance of Christ, this obviously involves a crucial difference which is at the very origin of Christianity itself, but does not change the fact that there are still many elements in common.
It still is our duty to work together in promoting a human condition that more closely conforms to God's plan. The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, which refers precisely to the Jewish tradition of jubilee years, points to the urgent need for this common effort to restore peace and social justice. Recognizing God's dominion over all creation, particularly the earth (Lv 25), all believers are called to translate their faith into a practical commitment to protecting the sacredness of human life in all its forms and to defending the dignity of every brother and sister.
3. In meditating on the mystery of Israel and its “irrevocable calling” (cf. Insegnamenti IX/1 , p. 1028), Christians also explore the mystery of their own roots. In the biblical sources they share with their Jewish brothers and sisters, they find the indispensable elements for living and deepening their own faith.
This can be seen, for example, in the liturgy. Like Jesus, whom Luke shows us as he opens the book of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Lk 4:16ff.), the Church draws from the liturgical wealth of the Jewish people. She arranges the liturgy of the hours, the liturgy of the word and even the structure of her Eucharistic prayers according to the models of the Jewish tradition. A few great feasts like Easter and Pentecost recall the Jewish liturgical year and are excellent occasions for remembering in prayer the people God chose and loves (cf. Rom 11:2). Today dialogue means that Christians should be more aware of these elements which bring us closer together. Just as we take note of the “covenant never revoked by God” (cf. Insegnamenti, 1980, [III/2], pp. 1272-1276), so we should consider the intrinsic value of the Old Testament (cf. Dei Verbum, n. 3), even if this only acquires its full meaning in the light of the New Testament and contains promises that are fulfilled in Jesus. Was it not Jesus' interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures which made the hearts of the disciples “burn within” them on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:32), enabling them to recognize the risen Christ as he broke bread?
4. Not only the shared history of Christians and Jews, but especially their dialogue must look to the future (cf. CCC, n. 840), becoming as it were a “memoria futuri” (We Remember: A Reflection on the “Shoah”;L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 18 March 1998, p. 6). The memory of these sorrowful and tragic events of the past can open the way to a renewed sense of brotherhood, the fruit of God's grace, and to working so that the seeds infected with anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism will never again take root in human hearts.
Israel, a people who build their faith on the promise God made to Abraham: “You shall be the father of a multitude of nations” (Gn 17:4; Rom 4:17), shows Jerusalem to the world as the symbolic place of the eschatological pilgrimage of peoples united in their praise of the Most High. I hope that at the dawn of the third millennium sincere dialogue between Christians and Jews will help create a new civilization founded on the one, holy and merciful God, and fostering a humanity reconciled in love.
GENERAL AUDIENCE: Wednesday 5 May 1999
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Continuing our discussion of interreligious dialogue, today we will reflect on dialogue with Muslims, who “together with us adore the one, merciful God” (Lumen gentium, n. 16; cf. CCC, n. 841). The Church has a high regard for them, convinced that their faith in the transcendent God contributes to building a new human family based on the highest aspirations of the human heart.
Muslims, like Jews and Christians, see the figure of Abraham as a model of unconditional submission to the decrees of God (Nostra aetate, n. 3). Following Abraham's example, the faithful strive to give God his rightful place in their lives as the origin, teacher, guide and ultimate destiny of all beings (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Message to Muslims for the end of Ramadan, 1417/1997). This human docility and openness to God's will is translated into an attitude of prayer which expresses the existential condition of every person before the Creator.
Along the path marked out by Abraham in his submission to the divine will, we find his descendant, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, who is also devoutly invoked by Muslims, especially in popular piety.
2. We Christians joyfully recognize the religious values we have in common with Islam. Today I would like to repeat what I said to young Muslims some years ago in Casablanca: “We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection” (Insegnamenti, VIII/2, , p. 497). The patrimony of revealed texts in the Bible speaks unanimously of the oneness of God. Jesus himself reaffirms it, making Israel's profession his own: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Mk 12:29; cf. Dt 6:4-5). This oneness is also affirmed in the words of praise that spring from the heart of the Apostle Paul: “To the king of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Tm 1:17).
We know that in the light of the full Revelation in Christ, this mysterious oneness cannot be reduced to a numerical unity. The Christian mystery leads us to contemplate in God's substantial unity the persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit: each possesses the divine substance whole and indivisible, but each is distinct from the other by virtue of their reciprocal relations.
3. Their relations in no way compromise the oneness of God, as the Fourth Lateran Council explains (1215): “Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.... It does not generate, is not begotten and does not proceed” (DS 804). The Christian doctrine on the Trinity, confirmed by the Councils, explicitly rejects any form of “tritheism” or “polytheism”. In this sense, i.e., with reference to the one divine substance, there is significant correspondence between Christianity and Islam.
However, this correspondence must not let us forget the difference between the two religions. We know that the unity of God is expressed in the mystery of the three divine Persons. Indeed, since he is Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8), God has always been a Father who gives his whole self in begetting the Son, and both are united in a communion of love which is the Holy Spirit. This distinction and compenetration (perichoresis) of the three divine Persons is not something added to their unity but is its most profound and characteristic expression.
On the other hand, we should not forget that the Trinitarian monotheism distinctive of Christianity is a mystery inaccessible to human reason, which is nevertheless called to accept the revelation of God's inmost nature (cf. CCC, n. 237).
4. Interreligious dialogue which leads to a deeper knowledge and esteem for others is a great sign of hope (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Message to Muslims for the end of Ramadan, 1418/1998). The Christian and Muslim traditions both have a long history of study, philosophical and theological reflection, literature and science, which have left their mark on Eastern and Western cultures. The worship of the one God, Creator of all, encourages us to increase our knowledge of one another in the future.
In today's world where God is tragically forgotten, Christians and Muslims are called in one spirit of love to defend and always promote human dignity, moral values and freedom. The common pilgrimage to eternity must be expressed in prayer, fasting and charity, but also in joint efforts for peace and justice, for human advancement and the protection of the environment. By walking together on the path of reconciliation and renouncing in humble submission to the divine will any form of violence as a means of resolving differences, the two religions will be able to offer a sign of hope, radiating in the world the wisdom and mercy of that one God who created and governs the human family.
GENERAL AUDIENCE: Wednesday 19 May 1999
Dialogue with the great world religions
1. The Acts of the Apostles relate St Paul 's discourse to the Athenians, which seems very timely for the areopagus of religious pluralism in our times. To present the God of Jesus Christ, Paul starts with the religious practices of his audience, expressing his appreciation: "Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, 'To an unknown god'. What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you" (Acts 17:22 -23).
On my spiritual and pastoral pilgrimage around today's world, I have repeatedly expressed the Church's esteem for "whatever is true and holy" in the religions of the various peoples. I have added, following the Council, that Christian truth serves to "encourage the spiritual and moral good found among them, as well as their social and cultural values" (Nostra aetate, n. 2). The universal fatherhood of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, spurs us also to dialogue with religions outside Abraham's stock. This dialogue offers a wealth of themes and challenges, when we think, for example, of Asian cultures deeply imbued with the religious spirit, or of African traditional religions, which are a source of wisdom and life for so many peoples.
2. At the root of the Church's encounter with world religions there is a discernment of their specific features, that is, of the way they approach the mystery of God the Saviour, the ultimate Reality of human life. Every religion, in fact, presents itself as a search for salvation and offers ways to attain it (cf. CCC, n. 843). Dialogue presupposes the certitude that man, created in God's image, is also the privileged 'place' of his saving presence.
Prayer, as an adoring recognition of God, as gratitude for his gifts, as an invocation of his help, is a special form of encounter, especially with those religions which, although not having discovered the mystery of God's fatherhood, nevertheless "have, as it were, their arms stretched out towards heaven" (Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi, n. 53). However, dialogue is more difficult with certain contemporary forms of religious belief in which prayer often ends up as an enhancement of one's vital potential in exchange for salvation.
3. Christianity's dialogue with other religions takes various forms and operates at different levels, beginning with the dialogue of life, in which "people strive to live in an open and neighbourly spirit, sharing their joys and sorrows, their human problems and preoccupations" (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Instruction Dialogue and Proclamation: Reflections and Orientations, 19 May 1991, n. 42).
The dialogue of action has particular importance. Among these works we should mention education in peace and respect for the environment, solidarity with the world of suffering, the promotion of social justice and the integral development of peoples. Christian charity, which knows no borders, gladly joins forces with the shared witness given by the members of other religions, rejoicing over the good they accomplish.
Then there is the theological dialogue, in which experts try to deepen their understanding of their respective religious heritages and to appreciate their spiritual values. Meetings between the specialists of different religions, however, cannot be limited to the search for a least common denominator. Their purpose is to lend courageous service to the truth by highlighting areas of convergence as well as fundamental differences, in a sincere effort to overcome prejudice and misunderstanding.
4. The dialogue of religious experience is also becoming more and more important. The practice of contemplation answers the great thirst for inner life of those who are spiritually searching, and helps all believers to enter more deeply into the mystery of God. Some practices derived from the great Eastern religions hold a certain attraction for people today. Christians must exercise spiritual discernment in their regard so as not to lose sight of the conception of prayer as it has been explained by the Bible throughout salvation history (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Orationis formas, on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation, 15 October 1989: AAS 82 , II, pp. 362-379).
This necessary discernment does not hinder interreligious dialogue. In fact, for many years meetings with the various monastic communities of other religions, marked by cordial friendship, are opening ways for the mutual sharing of other spiritual riches "with regard to prayer and contemplation, faith and ways of searching for God or the Absolute" (Dialogue and Proclamation, n. 42). Mysticism, however, can never be invoked to support religious relativism in the name of an experience that would lessen the value of God's revelation in history. As disciples of Christ, we feel the urgent need and the joy of witnessing to the fact that God manifested himself precisely in him, as John's Gospel tells us: "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known" (Jn 1:18).
This witness must be given without any reservation, but also in the awareness that the action of Christ and his Spirit is already mysteriously present in all who live sincerely according to their religious convictions. And with all genuinely religious people the Church continues her pilgrimage through history towards the eternal contemplation of God in the splendour of his glory.
GENERAL AUDIENCE: Wednesday 26 May 1999
Humanity's journey to the Father
1. In this final year of preparation for the Jubilee, the theme on which we are reflecting, that is, humanity's journey to the Father, suggests that we meditate on the eschatological perspective, in other words, on the final end of human history. Particularly in our time, everything proceeds at incredible speed, both because of scientific and technological discoveries and because of the media's influence. As a result, we spontaneously ask ourselves what is humanity's destiny and final goal. The Word of God offers us a precise answer to this question and shows us the plan of salvation that the Father carries out in history through Christ by the work of the Spirit.
In the Old Testament, the fundamental reference-point is the Exodus, with its focus on entering the promised land. The Exodus is not only a historical event, but the revelation of God's saving work which will be gradually fulfilled, as the prophets endeavour to show by shedding light on the present and future of Israel.
2. During the Exile, the prophets foretell a new Exodus, a return to the promised land. With this renewed gift of land, not only will God bring together his people scattered among the nations, but he will transform the heart of each one, that is, his capacity to know, love and act: “I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ez 11:19-20; cf. 36:26-28).
Through their commitment to observing the norms established by the Covenant, the people will be able to live in an environment similar to the one that came from God's hands at the moment of creation: “This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now inhabited and fortified” (ibid., 36:35). This will be a new covenant, expressed concretely in the observance of a law written upon their hearts (cf. Jer 31:31-34).
Then the horizon broadens and a new land is promised. The final goal is a new Jerusalem, where all affliction will cease, as we read in the Book of Isaiah: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth.... I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress” (Is 65:17-19).
3. Revelation takes up this vision. John writes: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rv 21:1f.).
The passage to this new creation requires a commitment to holiness, which the New Testament will clothe in absolute radicalism, as we read in the Second Letter of Peter: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pt 3:11-13).
4. Christ's resurrection, ascension and the announcement of his second coming have opened new eschatological horizons. In the Last Supper discourse, Jesus says: “I go to prepare a place for you. And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14:2-3). Therefore, St Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thes 4:16-17).
We have not been told the date of this final event. We must wait patiently for the risen Jesus, who, when asked by the Apostles themselves to restore the kingdom of Israel, answered by inviting them to preach and to bear witness: “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8).
5. We should await the final event with serene hope, as we build in our time that kingdom which at the end Christ will hand over to the Father: “After then will come the end, when, after having destroyed every sovereignty, authority and power, he will hand over the kingdom to God the Father” (1 Cor 15:24). With Christ, victorious over the enemy powers, we too will share in the new creation, which will consist in a definitive return of all things to the One from whom all things come: “When, finally, all has been subjected to the Son, he will then subject himself to the One who made all things subject to him, so that God may be all in all” (ibid., 15:28).
Therefore we must be convinced that “our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20). Here we have no lasting city (cf. Heb 13:14). Pilgrims in search of a permanent dwelling-place, we must long, like our Fathers in the faith, for a better country, “that is, a heavenly one” (ibid., 11:16).
GENERAL AUDIENCE: Wednesday 29 November 2000
God the Father offers salvation to all nations
1. The great fresco just offered to us in the Book of Revelation is filled not only with the people of Israel, symbolically represented by the 12 tribes, but also with that great multitude of nations from every land and culture, all clothed in the white robes of a luminous and blessed eternity. I begin with this evocative image to call attention to interreligious dialogue, a subject that has become very timely in our day.
All the just of the earth sing their praise to God, having reached the goal of glory after traveling the steep and tiring road of earthly life. They have passed "through the great tribulation" and have been purified by the blood of the Lamb, "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 26: 28).
They all share, then, in the same source of salvation which God has poured out upon humanity. For "God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (Jn 3: 17).
2. Salvation is offered to all nations, as was already shown by the covenant with Noah (cf. Gn 9: 8-17), testifying to the universality of God's manifestation and the human response in faith (cf. CCC, n. 58). In Abraham, then, "all the families of the earth shall bless themselves" (Gn 12: 3). They are on the way to the holy city in order to enjoy that peace which will change the face of the world, when swords are beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks (cf. Is 2: 2-5).
It is moving to read these words in Isaiah: "The Egyptians will worship [the Lord] with the Assyrians ... whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage'" (Is 19: 23, 25). "The princes of the peoples", the Psalmist sings, "are gathered together with the people of the God of Abraham. For God's are the guardians of the earth; he is supreme" (Ps 47: 10). Indeed, the prophet Malachi hears as it were a sigh of adoration and praise rising to God from the whole breadth of humanity: "From the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts" (Mal 1: 11). The same prophet, in fact, wonders: "Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?" (Mal 2: 10).
3. A certain form of faith thus begins when God is called upon, even if his face is "unknown" (cf. Acts 17: 23). All humanity seeks authentic adoration of God and the fraternal communion of men and women under the influence of the "Spirit of truth operating outside the visible confines of the Mystical Body" of Christ (Redemptor hominis, n. 6).
In this connection St Irenaeus recalls that God established four covenants with humanity: in Adam, Noah, Moses and Christ (cf. Adversus Haereses, 3, 11, 8). The first three aim in spirit at the fullness of Christ and mark the stages of God's dialogue with his creatures, an encounter of disclosure and love, of enlightenment and grace, which the Son gathers in unity, seals in truth and brings to perfection.
4. In this light the faith of all peoples blossoms in hope. It is not yet enlightened by the fullness of revelation, which relates it to the divine promises and makes it a "theological" virtue. The sacred books of other religions, however, are open to hope to the extent that they disclose a horizon of divine communion, point to a goal of purification and salvation for history, encourage the search for truth and defend the values of life, holiness, justice, peace and freedom. With this profound striving, which withstands even human contradictions, religous experience opens people to the divine gift of charity and its demands.
The interreligious dialogue which the Second Vatican Council encouraged should be seen in this perspective (cf. Nostra aetate, n. 2). This dialogue is expressed in the common efforts of all believers for justice, solidarity and peace. It is also expressed in cultural relations, which sow the seed of idealism and transcendence on the often arid ground of politics, the economy and social welfare. It has a significant role in the religious dialogue in which Christians bear complete witness to their faith in Christ, the only Saviour of the world. By this same faith they realize that the way to the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 16: 13) calls for humble listening, in order to discover and appreciate every ray of light, which is always the fruit of Christ's Spirit, from wherever it comes.
5. "The Church's mission is to foster "the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ' (Rv 11: 15), at whose service she is placed. Part of her role consists in recognizing that the inchoate reality of this kingdom can be found also beyond the confines of the Church, for example, in the hearts of the followers of other religious traditions, insofar as they live evangelical values and are open to the action of the Spirit" (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Dialogue and Proclamation, n. 35). This applies especially - as the Second Vatican Council told us in the Declaration Nostra aetate - to the monotheistic religions of Judaism and Islam. In this spirit I expressed the following wish in the Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee Year: "May the Jubilee serve to advance mutual dialogue until the day when all of us together - Jews, Christians and Moslems - will exchange the greeting of peace in Jerusalem" (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 2). I thank the Lord for having given me, during my recent pilgrimage to the Holy Places, the joy of this greeting, the promise of relations marked by an ever deeper and more universal peace.