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Vatican on Saudi-backed Interfaith Center

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Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, delivers his speech during the opening ceremony of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center in Vienna 26 Nov. The new Saudi-backed interfaith center will provide an opportunity for the church to promote religious freedom for Christians and others around the world, said Cardinal Tauran. (Photo: CNS/Leonhard Foeger, Reuters) 

27 Nov 2012 – By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A new Saudi-backed interfaith center will provide an opportunity for the church to promote religious freedom for Christians and others around the world, said the head of the Vatican's office for interreligious dialogue.

The King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center will offer “another opportunity for open dialogue on many issues, including those related to fundamental human rights, in particular religious freedom in all its aspects, for everybody, for every community, everywhere,” said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran during the opening of the center in Vienna Nov. 26.

“The Holy See is particularly attentive to the fate of Christian communities in countries where such a freedom is not adequately guaranteed,” said the cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Cardinal Tauran joined U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and other dignitaries in Vienna for the inauguration of the center, which is named for and financed by the king of Saudi Arabia.

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Spain and Austria — the center’s founding nations — also attended. The Vatican is assisting the project as a “founding observer.”

Saudi Arabia forbids the practice of any religion except Islam, even in private. Groups of liberal Muslims and members of the Austrian Green Party protested the center in the days leading up to its inauguration.

Cardinal Tauran said there were high expectations that King Abdullah’s new initiative would be marked by “honesty, vision and credibility.”

The center will act as a clearinghouse to gather information, new ideas and initiatives as well as be a kind of watchdog, to verify and act on human rights’ “failures,” the cardinal said, so that no one might be “deprived of the light and the resources that religion offers for the happiness of every human being.”

In working to support people’s material, moral and spiritual aspirations, people of all faiths must strive to respect others, learn more about others’ religious traditions and find ways people’s quest for truth can be &lquo;realized in freedom and serenity,” he said.

Explaining the Vatican’s role in the new initiative, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the center’s purpose of furthering interreligious and intercultural dialogue was a “basic and an urgent need for the humanity of today and tomorrow.”

The Vatican will use its role in the center to call for the “effective respect of the fundamental rights of Christians who live in countries with a Muslim majority, in order to promote authentic and integral religious liberty,” the spokesman said in a statement Nov. 23.





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Tags: Middle East Vatican Interreligious Christian-Muslim relations