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Cardinal Kasper's Statement to Moscow Summit

"There Cannot Be Peace Without Justice Grounded on Mutual Respect"

MOSCOW, JULY 6, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is Cardinal Walter Kasper's statement made at the Summit of World Religious Leaders being held in Moscow. Cardinal Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, headed the Holy See's delegation at this meeting.

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The delegation of the Catholic Church sent by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI expresses its profound appreciation and gratitude for the initiative which His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II has taken, and we are grateful for the invitation to this summit which was extended to us together with other world religious leaders.

I. We regard this summit as important, urgent and very timely in the face of so many problems, conflicts, challenges and dramatic situations in our world today:

-- We are concerned about the problem of peace. We are threatened by ethnic, cultural, national and unfortunately also religious tensions and conflicts; we are confronted with the problem of international terrorism, which misuses religious ideas for perverse ideological purposes, kills innocent people indiscriminately, and spreads fear and horror among the population.

-- We are concerned about the problem of justice in our world, where more than two thirds of the world's population live in inhuman conditions of poverty and misery, whereas others live in prosperity and affluence. In addition, there are situations of exploitation, of discrimination and of oppression of human freedom and of fundamental human rights.

-- We are concerned about the situation of secularism, especially in the Western world, which deprives human values, both personal and social, of their ultimate religious foundation orientation. As a consequence they are marginalized and made relative to the point that relativism and tolerance themselves become intolerant and oppressive. We lament especially the decline of family values.

Finally, secularism destroys religiously founded cultural traditions and leaves people, particularly young people, without moral and religious orientation in a world empty of deeper meaning but full of offerings for superficial and deceptive feelings of momentary happiness. Often alcohol or drugs are used as a support to live in such a world without meaning and as a substitute for authentic happiness.

Obviously, these are only some aspects. But they point clearly to the responsibility of all leaders, political as well as religious; they make us aware of the particular responsibility which religious leaders have in this situation, and I would add: They make us aware of how urgent is the shared responsibility which religious leaders have for the restoration of the moral and social order, for justice and peace.

Christian contribution

II. What is the contribution that we as Christians and we as the Catholic Church have to offer? There is no simple recipe. Such a thing does not exist. But there are principles, which have not been invented yesterday or today, but have been proven by our millennial human experience and tradition, and are ultimately founded in divine revelation.

First: Respect for the human person, and I add, respect for each human person. Christians are convinced that God created the human being, male and female, in his image and likeness so that each human being, regardless of his or her ethnic, cultural, religious or national belonging is of immeasurable value and merits unconditional respect from other human beings.

Each individual has the fundamental right to live in a dignified way according to his or her culture and conviction. Such respect for each human person is the foundation for justice, as justice is the foundation for peace. There cannot be peace without justice grounded on mutual respect.

At the heart of the human person's very nature there stands one's religious conscience. Consequent to this is the moral obligation to follow one's religious calling and seek the truth, and therefore also the need to have free will in religious matters, including the possibility of changing one's religion or even professing oneself atheist.

Openness by states, religious authorities and civil leaders in this regard leads to the effective respect of religious liberty, which, together with Divine Providence, is at the heart of peace between nations, and between the different ethnic and religious groups living side by side in peace and cooperation.

But there cannot be human rights for the individual alone, without responsibility for others and for the common good. There is no freedom without personal and social responsibility; freedom of the individual person is possible only within the context of solidarity towards all.

We are critical of a collectivistic view, just as we are critical of a one-sided individualistic approach to human rights. Individuality and solidarity are the two sides of the same coin. This leads us to conclude that alongside the sense of the dignity of each human person we have to promote the sense of solidarity among people, among ethnic groups, among nations and among religions.

Mutual respect

This brings me to the second point: mutual respect among religions. As has already often been said, there cannot be peace in the world without peace among religions. Obviously, religions are not the same as each other; on the contrary, there are indubitable fundamental differences between them.

Nevertheless, there is one thing they have in common, which is lacking in a merely secularized conception of the world and of human life: religions inspire openness to transcendence and many believe in a divine reality as the foundation and destiny of all reality; therefore they call for respect for what is holy and stand in opposition to today's widespread attitude of cynicism and disrespect towards nature and human beings. Where respect for the transcendent is lost, respect for the human person is in danger as well.

The Catholic Church, at the Second Vatican Council, officially declared: "The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these (i.e. in non-Christian) religions. She has high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all" (Nostra Aetate, 1).

The Catholic Church feels herself particularly close to Judaism, which belongs to the very roots of Christianity. We condemn all forms of anti-Semitism. After a difficult and complex history we have developed since the Second Vatican Council a new and more friendly relationship on the basis of an effective partnership (cf. Nostra Aetate, 4).

In a similar way the Council expressed "a high regard for Muslims" (Nostra Aetate, 3). With them we share monotheism. Jews, Christians and Muslims call Abraham their common father. Thus we desire friendly relations and good neighborliness with Muslims too.

Nor should we forget the great respect in which the Catholic Church holds the followers of other religions. The very day after beginning his ministry, Benedict XVI received leaders of other religions, which in the words of the Second Vatican Council are described as "striving variously to answer the restless searching of the human heart by proposing 'ways,' which consist of teachings, rules of life, rituals" (Nostra Aetate, 2).

As we respect other religions, we must categorically reject the exploitation, abuse and misuse of religion, especially when it is used as a pretext for hate, oppression and terrorism. God is a name of peace and cannot be used as an argument for killing innocent people. As Pope John Paul II in the Message for the World Day of Peace 2002 said: "Terrorism exploits not just people, it exploits God: it ends by making him an idol to be used for one's own purposes".


Third and last point: The only alternative to the often quoted danger of a "clash of civilizations" is dialogue between civilizations and religions. Today we live in a world where religions no longer live isolated from one another; in the ongoing process of so-called globalization people of different religions are drawing more closely together and often they live side by side.

Thus, religions are called not only to tolerate and respect each other, which is in itself no small thing, but they must go a step further: religions have to continue to dialogue and cooperate with each other for the restoration of moral and social values, for justice and peace in the world.

Dialogue does not at all mean syncretism, i.e. a mixture or confusion of religions or an agreement on the lowest common denominator. Dialogue builds on truth and on respect for truth, as Pope Benedict XVI often emphasizes (cf. e.g. World Day of Peace 2006). Dialogue means to share common values and to transmit them to a world which so urgently needs them. Such a dialogue in truth and in mutual respect implies various aspects:

-- Purification of memories. Each religion can identify the bad deeds of the others; about our own bad deeds we are generally much less keen to speak. Let us be honest and look with fresh eyes at the past, from the point of view of what we have in common and of what we are called to do in common today and tomorrow.

-- Consciousness of our common heritage. Regardless of all our differences, we have common values. The world would look very different should we realize what we have in common. I am thinking not only of the sense of the holy but also of the "golden rule," which can be found in all the main religious traditions: "What you do not wish the other to do to you, you should not do to the other," or in its positive formulation: "All you wish others to do to you, you should do to others."

We also share the common mission of being credible witnesses to the transcendent. This is the core of our shared interest, and necessitates collaboration, particularly with regard to contemporary culture and sociopolitical structures, so that they, too, be open to the transcendent.

-- Education of the younger generation. This point seems to me to be a foremost priority for the construction of a common peaceful future. We should not instill disregard and hatred toward others in the hearts of young people, but should bring them up in the spirit of tolerance, mutual respect, solidarity and responsibility for the common good.

-- Common action. It is time to take common action against oppression and discrimination, against the proliferation of arms and drugs, and for the promotion of tolerance and religious freedom, for justice and peace, for family values, for cooperation in the field of healthcare, e.g. in the battle against the AIDS epidemic, the care for refugees, displaced persons and immigrants, cooperation also in times of disasters and tragedies (tsunami, earthquakes, etc.) and in many other fields.

I would like to close with a point, which seems fundamental to me: As a child I grew up during the horrors of the Second World War. From this traumatic experience I urge you to tell everyone who bears responsibility that war can never be a means to solve problems; war always creates new problems; war is an evil and, insofar as it is up to us, we should do all that is in our power to avoid it and to ban it from the face of the earth.

Let us tell the world: We as religious people stand for peace: Peace of the heart, peace in our nations and between nations, peace between religions and hence peace in the world.


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Kasper's, World, Religion, Summit, Terrorism, Secularization, Marriage

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