Cardinal Ravasi explained that "at the request of Benedict XVI the Church has decided to embark on a new stage of dialogue, exchange and joint activity among believers and non-believers. This has been entrusted to the Pontifical Council for Culture".
The name "Courtyard of the Gentiles" evokes "the image of the vast area near the Temple of Jerusalem reserved for debates between Jews and non-Jews", the cardinal said. "It complements inter-religious dialogue which has been going on for some decades and represents a long-term commitment of the Church which will interest many people in the world, believers and non-believers alike".
"The aim", Cardinal Ravasi continued, "is to help to ensure that the great questions about human existence, especially the spiritual questions, are borne in mind and discussed in our societies, using our common reason".
The president of the pontifical council went on: "That symbol of apartheid and sacral separation which was the wall of the 'Courtyard of the Gentiles' was cancelled by Christ. He wished to eliminate barriers so as to ensure a harmonious meeting between the two peoples. ... Believers and non-believers stand on different ground, but they must not close themselves in a sacral or secular isolationism, ignoring one another or, worse still, launching taunts or accusations as do fundamentalists on one side and the other. Of course, differences must not be skimmed over, contradictory ideas must not be dismissed, or discordances ignored, ... but thoughts and words, deeds and decisions can be confronted, and even come together", he said.
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