To the Christians of the Greek-Roman city of Ephesus, the Apostle Paul wrote these words: “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”
Perhaps Paul was thinking of the fence that was then strictly dividing the courtyard of the Temple of Jerusalem and delimiting the space through which the ' Gentiles ', i.e. the pagans could pass. They were those whom the Jews considered «unbelievers», kept out of the space reserved to the Israelite faithful.
With this image, used by Pope Benedict XVI, the Pontifical Council for Culture has decided to cooperate in the destruction of a wall that once erected, prevented an exchange of gazes and words between the two symbolic and different "Courtyards," We wish to broach a dialogue, maintaining ourselves sturdy in our territories, but respecting the identities.
This dialogue is intended to unfold around large radical issues involving life and death, truth and falsehood, love and pain, good and evil, freedom and solidarity, speech and silence. Such dialogue must not be afraid to enter into elevated paths of transcendence and mystery, where the ultimate question arises about the Unknown, this God "known in Judah», known by the believer. A contemporary philosopher has written: 'what is strange is not so much the difficulty to speak of God, as to not talk about it.'
The Courtyard of the Gentiles or pagans is the place to search for common itineraries, without shortcuts or distractions or disturbances, in which listening becomes fundamental in spite of the differences. A French writer, Pierre Reverdy, was convinced of the fact that "there are profoundly radical atheists who, after all, deal with God in more depth than many superficial and frivolous believers and there are believers who are interested in man and in the world much more than some insignificant and sarcastic atheists . '
The dialogue that we wish to establish will take place between intelligent and passionate people who desire to find a meaning, a response, a truth.
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi,
President of the Pontifical Council for Culture