August 30, 2000
volume 11, no. 155

NEWS for Wednesday, August 30, 2000
The Church Has the Duty to Make its Contribution to Peace and Charity


    Some find it strange that a Cardinal of the Catholic Church would be in the company of Swamis, Buddhist monks, Inca Indians with woollen tunics and hats with bells, ministers of all the religions of the planet, at a meeting sponsored by the United Nations in New York. To make matters worse, the Millennium Summit on World Peace is partially bankrolled by Ted Turner's U.N. Foundation, "Better World Fund." Turner, who once said that Christianity was "for losers," will give the keynote address.

    In fact, the answer to the question is contained, perhaps, in the meeting's official objective: to analyze the way in which religions can cooperate with the U.N. in the promotion of peace, the struggle against poverty, and the conservation of the environment. Specifically, the participants are debating four general topics: the search for dialogue; the role of religion in the transformation of conflicts; forgiveness and reconciliation; and the struggle against violence, poverty, and the degradation of the environment.

    Cardinal Francis Arinze, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, is participating in the meeting. As John Paul II is unable to attend, he asked the Nigerian Cardinal to attend the sessions personally. Indeed, Cardinal Arinze himself responded to these doubts on Vatican Radio.

    The Summit of religious leaders "is a step that can be considered positive," he said. "Of course, not everything is very clear, but it does not matter. The fact is that some 1,000 people of various religions have been invited to attend in a 'personal capacity,' and are examining the contribution of religions to peace and the way they can offer help to the United Nations."

-- What is the original contribution the Catholic Church will make in that international round table?

-- Cardinal Arinze: The presence of the Catholic Church consists in the fact that some Catholics have been invited in a "personal capacity." The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ is a Gospel of justice, love, respect, and peace. The Church cannot fail to preach the Gospel. Because of this, the Catholic Church not only offers the contribution of her doctrine, but she also offers her life. Think of all those men and women who gave their lives in defense of the poor and others, like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, or Charles de Foucauld.

-- Do you think co-operation among religions really contributes to bring peace, even in countries scourged by civil wars, like Indonesia and Sudan?

-- Cardinal Arinze: Yes, the answer is "yes." Cooperation among the followers of different religions not only can, but must contribute to respect for human rights, and reciprocal love. Otherwise, religions are reduced to museum pieces. The promotion of peace is one of the points in which the majority of religions are in agreement, at least in the line of principles. ZE00082909

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