From Prohibition to Invitation


Faith in Christ brings down the wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles So the prohibition that existed in the historic courtyard of the Temple of Jerusalem has become today an invitation to place oneself on the frontiers between belief and non-belief. The Second Vatican Council had expressed the need for the Church to face the increasingly audible voices of contemporary culture and, in particular, of atheism, non belief and religious indifference.

“(...) Although the world of today has a very vivid awareness of its unity and of how one man depends on another in needful solidarity, it is most grievously torn into opposing camps by conflicting forces... (...)there is a growing exchange of ideas, but the very words by which key concepts are expressed take on quite different meanings in diverse ideological systems. Finally, man painstakingly searches for a better world, without a corresponding spiritual advancement.”

“Influenced by such a variety of complexities, many of our contemporaries are kept from accurately identifying permanent values and adjusting them properly to fresh discoveries. As a result, buffeted between hope and anxiety and pressing one another with questions about the present course of events, they are burdened down with uneasiness. This same course of events leads men to look for answers; indeed, it forces them to do so.”

(Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes, nº 4)

On account of this Pope Paul VI created the Secretariat for non-believers, on April 9, 1965, which in 1988 became the Pontifical Council for dialogue with non-believers, with two objectives: to study the phenomenon of atheism in order to understand the profound reasons, and to establish and develop dialogue with non-believers. In 1982, Pope John Paul II established the Pontifical Council for Culture, for dialogue and cooperation between the Church and the Culture of our time. In 1993 this institution merged with the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with non-believers, under the Presidency of Cardinal Paul Poupard till 2007.

Currently Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi is at the helm. The Pontifical Council for Culture is composed of several departments: "art and faith", "Science and faith","Belief and non-belief", "emerging cultures", "new technologies and culture of communications" ...

Dialogue with non-believers appears along with interreligious dialogue as a major concern of the pontificate of Benedict XVI.