C O N F I D E N T I A L VATICAN 000157
E.O. 12958: DECL: 7/31/2016
TAGS: PHUM VT
SUBJECT: HOLY SEE: USCIRF MEETING WITH CARDINAL POUPARD ON
REF: (a) vatican 156, (b) Vatican 067, (c) Vatican 021
CLASSIFIED BY: Christopher Sandrolini, Charge d'affaires a.i.,
REASON: 1.4 (d)
Â¶1. (C) Summary. Bishop Ramirez of the USCIRF discussed
Christian-Muslim dialogue with Cardinal Poupard on July 13.
Poupard noted the impossibility of doctrinal dialogue with
Islam, and the corresponding need to root that essential
dialogue instead in the ground of culture. Poupard focused on
the need for dialogue to be concrete, specific, and local rather
than abstract or general; and for the dialogue to involve "real"
Muslims on the field of ideas, and to emphasize reciprocity.
Â¶2. (SBU) Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of the US Commission on
International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called on Cardinal Paul
Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, on
July 13. Ramirez was accompanied by charge d'affaires and by
Scott Flipse, USCIRF advisor. Ramirez described the nature of
CIRF and the purpose of his visit (see ref a), and asked Poupard
about Christian-Muslim dialogue.
Â¶3. (C) Poupard said that Pope Benedict XVI had asked him to head
the dicasteries of both Culture and Inter-Religious Dialogue,
and they had a long discussion at the time. It appeared, said
Poupard, impossible to have a genuine doctrinal dialogue with
Islam; it would be blasphemy for Muslims to talk of Jesus as
God. Nevertheless, it is important to carry out dialogue with
the diverse world of Islam, and the pope considered the rubric
of culture to be the appropriate field for this dialogue.
According to Poupard, dialogue with Islam must emphasize
"reciprocity" (not precisely defined, but in Vatican usage often
meaning greater openness on the part of Muslim countries to
Christian worship; must build on the terrain of ideas and
philosophy (perhaps via universities) and mutual respect; must
be specific and concrete, relating to actual issues and avoiding
abstractions; must be with "real" Muslims (not powerless or
marginal figures); and must focus on the local and particular.
For example, Poupard praised a recent Brussels conference on
ecology and environment at which he felt good contacts had been
made with Muslims.
Â¶4. (sbu) Expanding a bit on reciprocity, Poupard said that his
theme for 20 years had been that true dialogue is only possible
between free partners. "We are all children of our culture,
especially in Europe" he said; we have a common Greco-Roman
heritage, and a heritage of Christian faith and respect for
(any) religion. Muslims have their respective heritage. Only
by acknowledging real similarities and differences at the outset
could a genuine and sincere dialogue proceed.
Â¶5. (C) Asked what he would recommend to the USCIRF, Poupard
again emphasized a focus on the concrete and realistic. Don't,
he urged, accept vague declarations such as "Islam is the most
tolerant faith in the world". Those who wish to enter Europe
should respect it; religious conversion must be possible for
all. Poupard pressed the USCIRF to "tell Turkey to respect
conditions for entry", complaining of an existing climate there
of hate and suspicion toward Catholics. Poupard said that the
French Bishops Conference had written to Jacques Chirac with
their concerns about Turkey but had received no reply -- which
he found shocking.
Â¶6. (C) Poupard, elegant and precise, was gracious with Ramirez
but did not mince words with regard to Islam, and Turkey in
particular. While it is thought that he will retire soon (he is
75 now), his sharp views clearly symbolize a shift in emphasis
from those of Archbishop Fitzgerald, the former head of
Interreligious Dialogue, now in Cairo (see refs b and c).