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In Naples, Pope Francis calls for theological dialogue with Islam, Judaism

(CNS photo/Ciro de Luca, Reuters)

'With Muslims we are called to dialogue to build the future of our societies and our cities,' the Pope said

In Naples Friday Pope Francis delivered a speech calling for theological dialogue with Islam and Judaism in pontifical universities as part of “a theology of dialogue and acceptance.”

“Theology students should be educated in dialogue with Judaism and Islam to understand the common roots and differences of our religious identities, and thus contribute more effectively to building a society that values ​​diversity and fosters respect, brotherhood and peaceful coexistence,” Pope Francis said on June 21 in front of Naples’ Jesuit-run pontifical Catholic university.

“With Muslims we are called to dialogue to build the future of our societies and our cities; we are called to consider them partners to build a peaceful coexistence, even when there are shocking episodes by fanatical groups, who are enemies of dialogue, like the tragedy of last Easter in Sri Lanka,” he said.

Pope Francis’ 30-minute speech in Naples presented his vision of “theology in the context of the Mediterrarean,” an area, he said, of transit, exchange, and historic conflict that is now called to be a bridge between Europe, Africa, and Asia.

“The multicultural and multi-religious reality of the new Mediterranean is formed … in the dialogue that comes from listening to the people and texts of the great monotheistic religions, and especially in listening to young people,” Francis said.

The pope’s message focused on theological study within pontifical universities as outlined in the apostolic constitution Veritatis Gaudium published in January 2018. Veritatis Gaudium stipulated new norms of governance and education for all institutions that issue ecclesiastical degrees.

“In theological faculties and ecclesiastical universities, courses in Arabic and Hebrew language and culture are to be encouraged, as well as mutual understanding between Christian, Jewish and Muslim students,” he said.”

“I would say that theology, particularly in this context, is called to be a theology of acceptance,” Pope Francis said.

The pope’s one-day trip to Naples is his second visit to Italy’s third largest city as pope. On Francis’ first trip to Naples in March 2015, he denounced the city’s corruption and organized crime.

On this trip, Pope Francis praised Naples, as “a special laboratory” for a theology of discernment, mercy, and acceptance in dialogue with different cultures and religions.

Pope Francis said that the Church needs theologians open to the inexhaustible novelties of the Spirit, who can escape the self-referential and competitive environment of academia, and act as “men and women of compassion.”

The pope also said that the contribution that women are giving and can give to theology is indispensable and must be supported.

“Without communion and without compassion, constantly nourished by prayer, theology not only loses the soul, but loses … the ability to interpret reality in a Christian way,” he said.

“The first sources of theology, that is, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, are inexhaustible and always fruitful,” Pope Francis said.