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Muslims and Catholic scholars dialogue on mercy at the Lateran University

A round table at the Pontifical Lateran University with Professors from the Iranian University in Qom have engaged in dialogue on the theme of Mercy ahead of the opening of the Jubilee. The meeting is the last step of a path undertaken in April when the rector, Monsignor Dal Cavolo, drew up an agreement for cultural cooperation with the Iranian university. “We must look at each other straight in the eye – the Rector said – and discover ourselves as men and women in search of God and of his paths of Peace.”

An all-embracing cultural debate between Professors at Qom University in Iran and at the Lateran Pontifical University on the theme of mercy in the Christian and Islamic traditions took place in Rome in the premises of the Pontifical Atheneum. Muslim and Catholic scholars addressed the theme of mercy “in the Bible” and in the “Qu’ran”, in law and in philosophy.

The conference was held in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Paris. Iranian president Hassan Rohani branded the terror attacks of November 13 as “crimes against humanity.” The rector of the Pontifical University Monsignor Enrico dal Covolo underlined: “In these days of suffering for the tragic events in Paris we are ever more convinced about the need to promote a constructive dialogue with Islam. We should look at each other in the eye and rediscover each other as men and women in search of God and of his paths of peace. This is especially true on the eve of the Jubilee of Mercy “.

“While in the world there are those who want to sow terror by taking hostage a god who is never terror and death, we choose the path of freedom, deepening with Islam the mercy that unites different peoples and cultures”.

Past April, Bishop Dal Covolo signed a cultural partnership between the Iranian University of Qom and the Pontifical Lateran University. The agreement has already led to a first significant step: from 30 October to 5 November the Lateran University hosted a group of Shiite students, guiding them to the knowledge of Christian Rome and providing opportunities for interaction. The round table on mercy is the continuation of a process of cultural dialogue well on track. “It ‘a journey – said Monsignor Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization – leading to mutual understanding, in order to identify points of mutual encounter. It will not be a journey made in solitude, but rather a path undertaken together, because only together can we contribute to the development and advancement of peace in the world today. “Msgr. Fisichella highlighted the strong correlation between faith and reason in the dialogue between religions. “We need religions to know how to deal with the power of reason, thereby preventing religion from being stripped of its own force”, he said.

“Faith and reason are the two wings enabling people to reach the truth.”

The words of Pope Francis in the Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee at number 23 reverberated among the audience: “There is an aspect of mercy that goes beyond the confines of the Church. It relates us to Judaism and Islam, both of which consider mercy to be one of God’s most important attributes.” Professor Mohammad ali Shomali, director of the Iranian Islamic Centre in London, underlined: “in the Qur’an mercy is mentioned 600 times, and all suras – except for number 9 – begin by addressing God with the words “Rahman” and “Rahim”. For two intense hours, Christian and Muslim scholars compared Qur’an and Gospel sacred texts, along with the pillars of the law and the philosophical traditions in the two religious traditions. The meeting closed with the speech by Professor Giulio d’Onofrio who read out passages from the Dante Alighieri’s Paradise to the Iranian scholars present. Culture is the other path that must be undertaken to defeat fundamentalist terror. In their panel lectures the Professors at Qom and Lateran universities bore testimony to the fact that “dialogue is not only possible. It is necessary. The Jubilee of Mercy opens a fundamental window for encounter, as Islam and Christianity, the Gospel and the Qu’ran, meet at the cornerstones of their faiths, that is, the infinite love of God for humankind.

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