Does religion promote unity


1. In our time, as the human race is becoming closer and closer together and relationships among the various peoples are increasing, the Church is all the more attentive to the relationship she has with non-Christian religions. In accordance with its task of promoting unity and love among people and thus also among peoples, it focuses above all on what is common to people and leads them to community with one another.

All peoples are a single community, they have the same origin, since God made the whole human race dwell in the whole world (1); they also have God as one and the same ultimate goal. His providence, the testimony of his goodness and his saving counsels extend to all men (2) until the elect are united in the Holy City, whose light will be the glory of God; all peoples will walk in his light (3).

People expect answers from the various religions to the unsolved riddles of human existence, which today, as ever, deeply move people's hearts: What is man? What is the meaning and goal of our life? What is good and what is sin? Where does suffering come from and what is the point? What is the way to true happiness? What is death, judgment, and retribution after death? And finally: what is the ultimate and unspeakable secret of our existence from which we come and where we are going?

The different religions

2. From the earliest times to our day there is a certain perception of that hidden power present in the course of the world and the events of human life among different peoples, and not infrequently is there an acknowledgment or even recognition of a supreme deity of a father. This perception and acknowledgment imbues their life with a deep religious meaning.

In connection with the advancement of culture, religions seek answers to the same questions with more precise terms and in a more well-educated language. In Hinduism, for example, people research the divine mystery and express it in an inexhaustible wealth of myths and deeply penetrating philosophical attempts and seek liberation from the narrowness and limitations of our situation through ascetic forms of life or deep meditation or loving, trusting refuge in God. In the various forms of Buddhism, the radical inadequacy of the changeable world is recognized and a way is taught in which people with a pious and trusting mind can either achieve the state of complete liberation or - be it through their own efforts or through higher help - to to attain highest enlightenment. The other religions spread all over the world try to counter the restlessness of the human heart in different ways by showing ways: doctrines and rules of life as well as sacred rites.

The Catholic Church does not reject anything that is true and holy in these religions. With sincere seriousness she looks at those ways of acting and living, those rules and doctrines, which indeed differ in some ways from what she herself considers and teaches to be true, but not infrequently reveal a ray of that truth that enlightens all people.

But it constantly proclaims and must proclaim it Christ, who is "the way, the truth and the life" (Joh 14: 6), in which people find the fullness of religious life in which God has reconciled everything to himself (4).

Therefore she admonishes her sons that with wisdom and love, through conversation and cooperation with those who profess other religions as well as through their testimony of Christian faith and life, they should use those spiritual and moral goods and also the socio-cultural values ‚Äč‚Äčthat are to be found in them, recognize, uphold and promote.

The Muslim religion

3. The Church also regards with respect the Muslims who worship the only God, the living and self-contained, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth (5), who spoke to men. They strive to submit to his hidden counsels with all their soul, just as Abraham submitted to God, to whom the Islamic faith is happy to appeal. Jesus, whom they do not recognize as God, they venerate as a prophet, and they honor his virgin mother Mary, whom they sometimes invoke in piety. Moreover, they await the day of judgment, on which God will raise up all people and reward them. That is why they value a moral standard of living and especially worship God through prayer, alms and fasting.

However, since there have been many quarrels and enmities between Christians and Muslims over the centuries, the Holy Synod exhorts everyone to leave the past aside, to strive for mutual understanding and to work together to protect and promote social justice, moral justice Goods and last but not least peace and freedom for all people.

The Jewish religion

4. In reflecting on the mystery of the Church, the Holy Synod commemorates the tape whereby the people of the New Covenant are spiritually united with the tribe of Abraham.

Thus the Church of Christ recognizes that, according to God's mystery of salvation, the beginnings of her faith and her election can already be found with the patriarchs, with Moses and the prophets.

It confesses that all believers in Christ, as sons of Abraham, are faithfully included (6) in the calling of this Patriarch and that the salvation of the Church is mysteriously represented in the exodus of the chosen people from the land of bondage. Therefore the Church cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through that people with whom God made the Old Covenant out of unspeakable mercy and is nourished by the roots of the good olive tree, into which the heathen grafted as wild saplings are (7). For the Church believes that Christ our peace reconciled Jews and Gentiles through the cross and united both in himself (8). The Church also always has in mind the words of the Apostle Paul, who says of his relatives that "acceptance for the Son and glory, the covenant and the law, the worship and the promises belong to them, as well as the fathers and that out Christ comes from them according to the flesh "(Rom 9.4-5), the son of the Virgin Mary.

It also keeps in mind that the apostles come from the Jewish people, the foundations and pillars of the church, as well as most of those first disciples who preached the gospel of Christ to the world.

As the Scriptures testify, Jerusalem did not recognize the time of its visitation (9), and a large part of the Jews did not accept the Gospel, in fact not a few opposed its spread (10). Nevertheless, according to the apostles' testimony, the Jews are still loved by God for the sake of the fathers; His gifts of grace and his calling are irrevocable (11). With the prophets and the same apostle, the Church awaits the day known only to God, on which all peoples call on the Lord with one voice and "serve him shoulder to shoulder" (Soph 3,9) (12).

Since the spiritual heritage shared by Christians and Jews is so rich, the Holy Synod seeks to promote mutual knowledge and respect, which is above all the fruit of biblical and theological studies and fraternal dialogue.

Although the Jewish authorities and their followers have insisted on the death of Christ (13), the events of his suffering cannot be blamed either on all Jews living then without distinction, nor on Jews today.

Certainly the church is God's new people, yet the Jews must not be portrayed as rejected or cursed by God, as if this could be deduced from the Holy Scriptures. That is why everyone should see to it that nobody, in catechesis or in preaching the word of God, teaches anything that is not in harmony with evangelical truth and the spirit of Christ.

Conscious of the inheritance that it has in common with the Jews, the Church, which rejects all injunctions against any human being, not for political reasons, but at the instigation of the religious love of the Gospel, laments all outbursts of hatred, persecution and manifestations of anti-Semitism that result at any time and by anyone against the Jews. Also, as the Church has always taught and teaches, Christ, in freedom, for the sake of the sins of all people, took upon himself his suffering and death out of infinite love, so that all might attain salvation. So it is the task of the preaching of the church to proclaim the cross of Christ as a sign of the universal love of God and as the source of all graces.

Universal brotherhood

5. But we cannot invoke God, the Father of all, if we refuse the brotherly attitude of some people who are made in the image of God. Man's behavior towards God the Father and his behavior towards fellow human beings are so closely related that the Scriptures say: "He who does not love does not know God" (1 Joh 4,8).

In this way, the foundation is removed from any theory or practice that makes a difference between man and man, between people and people with regard to human dignity and the rights that flow from it.

Therefore the Church rejects any discrimination against a person or any act of violence against him for the sake of his race or color, his class or his religion, because this contradicts the spirit of Christ. And accordingly, the Holy Synod, following in the footsteps of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, calls the faithful with passionate earnestness to "lead a good walk among the peoples" (Gen. Petr 2:12) and if possible, as far as it is up to them, keep peace with all people (14), so that they are really sons of the Father who is in heaven (15).

October 28, 1965