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Spirit of Assisi: Benedict XVI reflects...
Jesuit Professor Father Felix Körner is a scholar, his expertise, Islam. Something he has first hand experience of, grounded in the six years in which he lived in a Muslim nation, Turkey. There he spent much of his time in dialogue with Muslim theologians in an effort: to build bridges between Christians and Muslims, to work towards reconciliation and improve mutual understanding.
So today when Professor Kőrner teaches “Theology of Religions”, at the Faculty of Theology at the Jesuit run Pontifical Gregorian University here in Rome, he continues to draw inspiration from this personal experience in inter-religious dialogue. While clearly placing Christian and Catholic identity at the heart of his teaching he encourages students to grow in the awareness that there is to learn from other religions as well.
Veronica Scarisbrick went round to call on him ahead of the forthcoming 27th October, “Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace”, meeting in Assisi which brings together around Pope Benedict XVI some three hundred representatives of other religions for a day of reflection , dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world .
A commemoration, a quarter of a century on, of that first historic 1986 meeting called for by Blessed John Paul II , when representatives of other religions gathered to pray together for justice and peace.
So when Veronica heard that praying together was something that was not going to happen this time round, she wondered why and to dispel all doubts regarding this matter she asked Father Kőrner if this might imply there’s a problem with joint prayer: “ ..We cannot say that 25 years ago religions prayed together and now they don’t . The motto of the 1986 Assisi Day of Prayer was : ‘We do not come to pray together , we come together to pray’. That is a significant distinction, it meant already then there was a feeling that it would be wrong if we would recite texts together and pray as if all religions were in fact one Esperanto religion, one union. No, there is religious diversity and the 1986 event was clear about that. But if we want to understand what has been going on in the last 50 years of church relations with other religions we can see more clearly what will be happening now in Assisi.”
In this interview Father Kőrner also briefly presents some background to that first Assisi meeting. Beginning half a century back in time when the Second Vatican Council began formulating the Catholic Church’s attitude towards other religions. He identifies three steps under three Popes: realising under Paul VI, relating under Blessed John Paul II and reflecting under our current Pope.
Not for nothing Father Kőrner adds,under the pontificate of Benedict XVI, the word reflection has been added to the words dialogue and prayer.
All this and more in this programme produced by Veronica Scarisbrick .