Courtyard of the Gentiles in Paris
Given below is the complete text of the Holy Father’s video message to participants in the “Courtyard of the Gentiles” in Paris, a meeting between believers and non-believers promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture and dedicated to the theme “Enlightenment, religion, shared reason”.
The event closed yesterday in Paris on the forecourt of the cathedral of Notre-Dame where the Pope’s message was broadcast on giant screens. At the end of the message, the Holy Father invited those present to enter the Cathedral for a moment of prayer, which for some ‘may be a prayer to an unknown God’.
Papal Video Message
….You non-believers call on believers, in particular, to offer the witness of a life coherent with the faith they profess, and you reject any deviation from religion which renders it inhuman. You believers wish to tell your friends that the treasure that is within you merits sharing, it needs to be announced, it requires reflection…
Dear young people, dear friends!
“I know that – at the invitation of Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, and of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture – you have gathered in large numbers on the forecourt of Notre-Dame de Paris. I greet you all, not forgetting our brothers and friends of the Taize Community. I am grateful to the pontifical council for having taken up and extended my invitation to open a ‘Courtyard of the Gentiles’ in the Church. The image of the courtyard evokes that vast open space near the Temple of Jerusalem where everyone who did not share the faith of Israel could approach the Temple and pose questions about that religion. There they could meet the scribes, discuss the faith and even pray to the God they did not know. And if, at that time, the Courtyard was also a place of exclusion because Gentiles did not have the right to enter the consecrated area, Jesus Christ came to ‘break down the dividing wall’ between Jews and Gentiles, so as to ‘reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace…’, as St. Paul tells us.
“At the heart of the ‘City of Light’, in front of that magnificent masterpiece of French religious culture which is Notre-Dame, a great space has been opened to give fresh impetus to respectful and friendly encounter among people of differing convictions. You young people, believers and non-believers, have chosen to come together, this evening as in your everyday lives, to meet and to discuss the great questions of human existence. Many people today affirm that they do not belong to any religion, but wish for a new and freer world, more just and more united, more peaceful and happier. As I address you today, I consider everything you have to say to one another. You non-believers call on believers, in particular, to offer the witness of a life coherent with the faith they profess, and you reject any deviation from religion which renders it inhuman. You believers wish to tell your friends that the treasure that is within you merits sharing, it needs to be announced, it requires reflection. The question of God is not a danger to society, it does not imperil human life! The question of God must not be absent from the great questions of our time.
“Dear friends, you must build bridges between one another. You must seize the opportunity that has been given you to seek, in the depths of your consciences and through solid and well-reasoned reflection, the ways to a profound dialogue. You have so much to say to one another. Do not close your consciences before the challenges and problems facing you.
“I deeply believe that the encounter between faith and reason enables man to discover himself. But all too often reason is warped by the pressure of interests and the lure of profit, which it is forced to recognise as the ultimate criterion. The search for truth is not easy. And if each of us is called to make a courageous decision in favour of truth, this is because there are no shortcuts to the happiness and beauty of a perfect life. Jesus says as much in the Gospel: ‘The truth will make you free’.
“Dear young people, it is up to you to ensure that in your own countries and in Europe as a whole, believers and non-believers rediscover the path of dialogue. Religions cannot be afraid of a just secularism, a secularism that is open and allows individuals to live according to what they believe in their own consciences. If we are to build a world of freedom, equality and fraternity, believers and non-believers should feel themselves to be free, with equal rights to live their individual and community lives in accordance with their own convictions; and they must be brothers to one another.
“One of the reasons behind this Courtyard of the Gentiles is to foster such feelings of fraternity, over and above individual beliefs but without denying differences and, even more profoundly, recognising that only God, in Christ, gives us inner freedom and the possibility of truly coming together as brothers.
“Our primary attitude, the first action we must undertake together, is that of respecting, assisting and loving all human beings, because they are creatures of God and, in a certain way, embody the path that leads to Him. By continuing the experience you are having this evening you will help to break down the barriers of fear of the other, of foreigners, of those who are not like you; a fear that often arises from mutual ignorance, from scepticism or from indifference. Be sure to strengthen your bonds with all young people without distinction, not forgetting those who live in poverty and solitude, those who suffer through unemployment or sickness, or who feel they are on the margins of society.
“Dear young people, you can share not only your life experience but also your approach to prayer. You believers and non-believers, present here in this Courtyard of the Unknown, are also invited to enter the consecrated area, to pass the magnificent portal of Notre-Dame and enter the cathedral for a moment of prayer. For some of you this will be a prayer to a God you know through the faith, but for others it may be a prayer to an unknown God. Dear young non-believers, joining those who are praying inside Notre-Dame on this day of the Annunciation of the Lord, open your hearts to the Sacred Scriptures, allow yourselves to be drawn by the beauty of the music and, if you truly desire it, allow the feelings closed within you to rise towards the unknown God.
“I am happy to have had the chance to address you this evening for the inauguration of the Courtyard of the Gentiles. And I hope you will be able to respond to other invitations I have made, especially that of this summer’s World Youth Day in Madrid. The God Whom believers learn to know invites you to discover Him and to live in Him. Do not be afraid! On your journey together towards a new world, seek the Absolute, seek God, even those of you for whom He is an unknown God.
“May He Who loves each and every one of you bless and protect you. He relies on you to show concern for others and for the future, and you can always rely on Him!”
VATICAN CITY, 26 MAR 2011 (VIS)