Pope Benedict XVI: “The world’s religions draw constant attention to the wonder of human existence.”


Sydney, Jul 18, 2008 / 05:07 am (CNA) .- Around twenty religious leaders representing the Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist faith communities shared an audience with the Pope at the Chapter Hall of St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney today.

The guests included Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, Sheikh Mohamadu Saleem and Rev Shigenobe Watanabe, the Buddhist community leader.

Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell greeted the guests gathered saying "The presence here today of leaders from other faiths is an acknowledgement that this wisdom is not limited to Christians alone, but to all believers..."

The Pope spoke of the importance for a "harmonious relationship between religion and public life" particularly at a time when religion is considered as "a cause of division rather than a force for unity."

The Pope also spoke of the special role religion plays in leading people who are searching for ‘concrete ways to contribute to the common good."

"Religions... teach people that authentic service requires sacrifice and self-discipline, which in turn must be cultivated through self-denial, temperance and a moderate use of the world's goods."

The Pope also used this opportunity to encourage religions in their efforts at education saying " faith schools and State schools could do even more to nurture the spiritual dimension of every young person."

Finally the Pope emphasised that commonalities of humanity is a force for creating peaceful dialogue between religions.

"The universality of human experience, which transcends all geographical boundaries and cultural limitations, makes it possible for followers of religions to engage in dialogue so as to grapple with the mystery of life's joys and sufferings."

"Religion offers peace, but more importantly, it arouses within the human spirit a thirst for truth and a hunger for virtue. May we encourage everyone- especially the young - to marvel at the beauty of life, to seek its ultimate meaning, and to strive to realize its sublime potential!"

The Pope was also addressed by the Chief Minister of Sydney's Great Synagogue, Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence who praised the Catholic Church on its contributions to society, and the Jewish faith.

"It is a world which has become enriched and improved to a great part through the endeavours and enterprises of you and your worthy predecessors at the Vatican," Rabbi Lawrence said.

Sheikh Mohamadu Saleem, representing Muslims and the National Council of Imams also gave a short speech.

"Christians and Muslims, in particular the youth, are working together" he said, to achieve "justice and peace in many parts of the world."
"The Muslim community in Australia is very grateful for this opportunity to welcome your respectful eminence."

According to the AAP Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Aghan Baliozian said the ecumenical meeting was important for Christian unity in Australia, which had many ethnic and orthodox churches.

"This respect paid to the leaders of the Christian churches shows His Holiness' love and an attitude towards unity," he told the AAP.

The Anglican youth representative, young man Nat Smith, 18, shook hands with the Pope at the end of the meeting.
Mr Smith to the AAP, "I said 'have a nice day and enjoy your time here'."