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World Religion Summit Closes Today

Leaders Give Insights on Meeting's Main Themes

MOSCOW, JULY 6, 2006 (Zenit) - Religious leaders gathered in Russia gave we an inside look at some of the issues discussed at the World Summit which ends today.


Terrorism was one of the most prominent topics during the summit. Not only were all the leaders opposed to it, but they stressed the need to know, understand, respect and dialogue with the different religions. They agreed that this is the best alternative to put an end to the religious fanaticism that causes terrorism and the false idea of killing in the name of God.

Along with 19 others, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal to Conscience Foundation, was personally requested by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to find concrete ways to combat extremism.

Although his report will not be published until December, the Rabbi told ZENIT that it was clear in the summit that "interreligious dialogue is an important instrument in international relations and in the fight against extremism." Therefore, "both political as well as religious leaders must be involved in the solution of problems," he explained.


The loss of religious values and rejection of religion's great contribution to societies was a topic that was frequently addressed during the summit.

When we asked Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, if it is the Church that must adapt to new times, or societies that must adapt to the Church, he replied: "I believe we must do both things." We must continue to guide people's beliefs and maintain them so that they are transformed into a positive faith."

"Values and religion must be presented in terms that secular people can understand," he added.


During the summit, the idea that "no one is here to try to convert the other to his religion" was often articulated. Instead, the representatives maintained that they were on a mutual search for the common good.

Emphasis was placed on the fact that human beings can coexist peacefully and harmoniously without making an issue of religion.

Bishop Niphon, representative of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, stressed: "we must coexist and commit ourselves, together, to resolve our problems. In Lebanon, where we have so many different Christian communities, there is no danger in them living together. If one of them was linked to a political party, for example, then the problems would begin."

Interreligious marriages

The growing number of persons worldwide who profess different religions offered the opportunity to make known the work the Catholic Church is engaged in, especially with Islam.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said that the Church advocates special attention to such cases, above all to have a profound knowledge of both religions and great respect for the beliefs of each of the parties.

"In regard to the work we do, the situation is very different in each of the Muslim countries, so that it would be difficult to generalize, given that each place has laws and very concrete cases. However, we must make it clear that what is most important in these cases is, again, respect, profound respect," reiterated Cardinal Poupard.

Woman's role in religion

Reverend Doctor Dagmar Heller, of Germany's Evangelical Church, was the only woman religious minister to attend the summit. Asked about woman's role in religion, she explained: "In fact, I was very pleased that one of the leaders, I think it was one of the Muslim delegation, brought this issue to the table."

"However, there are many traditions in which women do not have leadership roles. I am not the kind of person who is in favor of a radical change in traditions, but on the other hand, I am certain that religions need to reflect on the role that women carry out in them."

Message for the G-8

The religious leaders intend to make the summit's message known to the political leaders of the eight most industrialized countries of the world, who will meet in St. Petersburg from July 15-17.

"I believe that the summit's message must be basically for the G-8," explained Cardinal McCarrick. "They are the ones who will make decisions now that affect our view of the world. That is why it is important to address them in representation of the Churches. Thus we involve them so that they will do what we know they must do."

"What will happen with the political leaders who are not taking part in the G-8?" we asked.

Cardinal McCarrick replied: "As the world functions, we know that if the G-8 moves, the other countries will also move."


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