The Section for Interreligious Dialogue of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences met in Paris from 13 to 15 September 2023. In three sessions, those responsible for interreligious dialogue within the various European Bishops’ Conferences were able to discuss different experiences of dialogue, with a particular focus on that with the Islamic world, but also with sessions devoted to dialogue with Buddhism and that with Hinduism. Appointments included a meeting with the Rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris Mohamed Hafiz and with lama Jigmé Thrinlé Gyatso, Co-President of the Buddhist Union of France.
The proceedings took place at the headquarters of the French Bishops’ Conference and were opened by Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, President of the French Bishops’ Conference, and Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick, head of the CCEE’s interreligious dialogue section.
Father Laurent Basanese, SJ, Official of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, spoke at the meeting’s opening of “The Horizons of Islamic-Christian Dialogue: The involvement of Pope Francis and implementation in the Muslim context”. The official recalled that the expression of “human fraternity”, at the heart of Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti and the Declaration for Universal Fraternity signed, necessarily leads to dialogue.
“Peace building – said Fr Basanese – remains at the heart of dialogue, today more than ever. Dialogue cannot only consist of approaching one another by explaining our theologies. It is obvious that this is not enough”.
An entire working session was dedicated to the “Young Muslims in a European contect starting from the French context”, with presentations by sociologist Juliette Galonnier and Michele Brignone, Director of the Oasis Foundation. The latter focused in particular on how Islam spreads in the network and in what way, while Galonnier addressed the issue of Islam more from a sociological point of view.
The second working session featured talks by Professor Dennis Gira, a specialist in Buddhism, and an introduction to Hindu Christian dialogue by Bishop Brendan Leahy.
Speaking about dialogue with Buddhism, Professor Gira pointed out that there are difficulties in entering into dialogue with Buddhism because the two ways of Buddhism represent a radical difference, while in Christianity “nothing, including the phenomenon of man, can be explained without God, who is absolute in nature and who is radically other”.
Regarding the contributions of the clergy, the Grand Imam of the Grand Mosque of Paris Mohamed Hafiz emphasised in his speech that “Islamic-Christian relations must lead us to recognise that we are in the same monotheistic family” and lamented the growing ignorance regarding religions.
Lama Jigmé Thrinlé Gyatso said that dialogue can “focus on a few fundamental themes” and that dialogue “will be all the deeper the more spirituality is present in our religious practice”.