The Vatican is on a peace offensive and its roving ambassador, His Eminence Jean-Louis, Cardinal Tauran, 65, says ruefully that “religion is like diplomacy.”
His Eminence, as President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue of the Vatican, is on his first visit to India and was in Lucknow yesterday for the episcopal consecration of an Indian Catholic priest.
In New Delhi on Tuesday, the highlight of Cardinal Tauran’s agenda was an inter-faith dialogue hosted by the Archbishop of Delhi, Vincent M. Concessao at Archbishop’s House, Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Amongst those he addressed in the small, intimate gathering were Swami Shantatmananda, the head of the Ramakrishna Matt, Delhi, Dr Deepali Bhanot of the Sanskrit Department, Delhi University and Swami Mahamantradas of ISKCON, who explained aspects of Hindu tradition.
The Bordeaux-born French Cardinal, who served in the Vatican’s foreign ministry for over 30 years, has worked in countries as diverse as the Dominican Republic and Lebanon. The Catholic Church is actively looking to engage with other religious traditions, he said, to promote world peace and harmony.
Cardinal Tauran’s work as an activist of the Holy Roman Church, he said, was to unite, not divide the world through the deeper realm of spirituality, as a community of believers. “Let us celebrate our differences but unite in God,” he said, adding that he recently witnessed a unique exchange programme between a group of Buddhist monks and nuns from Japan with Catholic monks and nuns.
“The Buddhists came to retreats in Italy and it was beautiful to see their techniques of meditation and discover their deep spirituality,” he said. Vexed questions of the Vatican’s unrelenting views on abortion and same-sex relationships were not discussed, since the focus was on inter-religious dialogue.
“There are four modalities for dialogue,” said Cardinal Tauran: “The dialogue of life by being a good neighbour; the dialogue of works by caring for the wellbeing of groups (charity, community service, disaster relief); the dialogue of theology because it is important to know and understand each other’s religious convictions and especially, the dialogue of spirituality, beyond religious practice, “Because believers, if they unite in the cause of peace, can bring about healing, especially the young, more than any other group.” The meeting concluded with lyrics by the medieval mystic Dadhu, sung in Raga Shivranjani by Father Thomas of the Delhi diocese.