The Mediterranean Meetings, which are being held in Marseille from September 17 to 24, are an opportunity to look at those who, through theology, have reflected on the question of meeting with believers of other religions. Is the Mediterranean not, according to Pope Francis, this sea “culturally always open to encounter, dialogue and reciprocal inculturation” (1)?
These theologians of the encounter that we present to you, precursors of the Second Vatican Council or in its lineage, have in common that they have nourished their reflection on research but also on knowledge, sharing, a life in common with those whom they they sought to better understand, whether they were Hindus, Jews, Muslims, understanding their own Christian faith even better thanks to the debates to which they consented. Like Paolo Dall’Oglio, whose demanding pluralism he demonstrated until his kidnapping by Daesh in 2013 was not relativism, or the simple juxtaposition of different opinions, but a search for the truth.
If this theology of encounter is, tells us Brother Emmanuel Pisani, director of the Dominican Institute of Oriental Studies (Ideo) in Cairo, only in its infancy in the light of two thousand years of Christianity, dialogue is present, fraternity is built and friendship between believers is cultivated. Because what grows during events such as the meeting between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al Tayeb in 2019 in Abu Dhabi, or as the Mediterranean Meetings will be, is a true culture of the encounter, in its relational dimension. It is on this favorable soil that theology can develop.
► Christian de Chergé, martyr and theologian
Christian de Chergé. / DR
Assassinated with his brothers from Tibhirine by members of the Armed Islamic Group in 1996, beatified in 2018 with 18 other martyrs from Algeria: Christian de Chergé was not only a spiritual master, revealed to the greatest number by the depth of his testament spiritual.
The prior of the Cistercian monastery of Tibhirine, who had chosen, with his brothers, to stay in the Atlas with their Muslim neighbors and friends, while the Islamist danger was mounting, developed a true theological thought on the place of Islam in God’s design and interreligious dialogue. A thought which led him “to a richer understanding of the mystery of Christ, the mystery of the Church and time in God”, writes Father Christian Salenson (2), who has dedicated several works to him.
► Henri Le Saux, a Christian monk in Hindu land
Henri Le Saux. / FIND A SERIOUS
The spiritual journey of Henri Le Saux (1910-1973) is extraordinary. In India for twenty-five years (1948-1973), this Benedictine monk trained at Kergonan Abbey, in Brittany, experienced interreligious dialogue and inculturation with astonishing intensity. Under the name of Swami Abhishiktananda, this “father” of the Christian ashram movement is one of the great architects of dialogue with Hinduism.
“Without being a systematic theologian, he notably proposed a magnificent rereading of the Upanishads (mystical and philosophical treatises of the Vedas, sacred texts in Hinduism, Editor’s note)”, supports Father Yann Vagneux, of the Foreign Missions of Paris, specialist in his artwork. “With great honesty, he brought out this “emulation of holiness” which emerges and which, for a Christian, allows him to detect with a new look the depth of his own tradition. »
► Pierre Claverie, reconciler in the Mediterranean
Bishop Pierre Claverie. / CIRIC/SIPA
French from Algeria by birth in 1938, the pied-noir Pierre Claverie made the choice, once he entered the Dominican order and ordained priest, to settle in Algeria according to the Evian agreements. “The passion of his life was to reconcile the two shores of the Mediterranean, he who had not fully understood in his youth the issues of decolonization”, explains the Dominican Jean-Jacques Pérennès, close to the man who was assassinated in 1996, and to whom he devoted a biography (3).
Bishop of Oran, Pierre Claverie puts his gift for friendship at the service of the relationships of trust that he has built over the years, campaigning to remain until the end in this country while Islamism is growing and he knows his life in danger. Assassinated, with his driver, on August 1, 1996, Pierre Claverie was beatified with 18 other Algerian martyrs in 2018.
► Paolo Dall’Oglio, dialogic pluralisms
Paolo Dall’Oglio. / PIERRE SYLVAIN/CIRIC
The Jesuit Paolo Dall’Oglio is, according to Emmanuel Pisani, director of the Dominican Institute of Oriental Studies in Cairo (Idéo), the one who “went furthest in a true intelligent and dialogic pluralism in the spirit of Charles de Foucauld, going so far as to accept anyone who does not share his opinion.” The founder of the Syrian monastery of Mar Moussa, in which he prayed in Arabic, pushed “like no other has done the question of inculturation”, bringing Sufi sounds into the liturgy with Christian words.
Ten years after his disappearance, in July 2013, undoubtedly assassinated by Daesh, the fruits are there. “Groups return to Mar Moussa as before the war,” testifies Emmanuel Pisani, returning from a week there. I have never seen anywhere else the presence of so many Muslims at the Eucharist, coming to pray and share with Christians.”
► Georges Anawati, intelligence and friendship
Eastern Christian, born in Alexandria (Egypt) in 1905, specialist in medieval Arab philosophy, the Dominican Georges Anawati (died in 1994) is one of the pioneers of Muslim-Christian dialogue, who bet on mutual knowledge and friendship. He, whose grandfather had to emigrate from Lebanon after massacres perpetrated by the Druze, participated in the founding of the Dominican Institute of Oriental Studies (Idéo), located in Cairo, neighboring Al-Azhar University, the thinking head of the Sunni world.
“He was gifted for friendship, combining cordiality with competence,” underlines the Dominican Jean-Jacques Pérennès, who devoted a biography to him (4). When you’re friends, you can afford to disagree. This is what allowed him a fruitful exchange with the
► Jean Dujardin, architect of fraternity
Father Jean Dujardin. / P. RAZZO/CIRIC
Historian, Oratorian religious, Father Jean Dujardin (died in 2018) devoted most of his life to relations between Jews and Christians. Beyond his intellectual work which can be measured by the numerous reference works he left behind, Jean Dujardin, according to the words spoken at his funeral by the dean of the Elie-Wiesel University Institute, Franklin Rausky, “accepted with a lot of daring, the risk of the encounter, of communication, of the relationship in the singularity of the interlocutors”, fully assuming “the dignity of difference”.
His meetings led him to get involved in suspending the process for the beatification of Isabella the Catholic, the sovereign who had expelled the Jews from Spain, as well as in resolving the Auschwitz Carmel controversy.
On the program for the opening weekend of the Mediterranean Meetings
Saturday September 16. Pray in the northern districts: visit to two places of worship, the Sainte-Marthe church and the Arrahma mosque in Marseille. Meet at 10 a.m. at Sainte-Marthe Church (1, Church Plateau), reception and presentation of the symbols and times of Catholic Eucharistic prayer. Then fifteen minutes on foot to the Arrahma mosque (42, rue Cade), visit, free snack of Comorian and North African specialties.
Saturday September 16 and Sunday September 17. Judeo-Christian retreat at the Abbey of Sainte-Lioba, a peaceful place in the Étoile massif in Simiane-Collongue (Bouches-du-Rhône).
Sunday September 17. At 10:30 a.m., divine liturgy at the Saint-Hermogen church in Marseille, (100 avenue Clot-Bey). “Welcome to Marseille” evening: opening mass of the youth session of the Mediterranean Meetings, hosted by a team from Massilia Spirit at the Chartreux church (25 place Edmond-Audran) at 7 p.m., then welcome evening at 8:30 p.m. at the Chartreux parish center.
Information and reservation:www.rencontres-med23.org