55 – The only way for individuals and societies to grow is via the culture of encounter without needless preconceptions

Europe is, without doubt, the only continent whose borders are not defined by geographic criteria, for if these were to be considered, it would be nothing more than a peninsula of Asia! Europe is defined by a civilization held in common. Its origins were modeled by the Holy Catholic Church, and as long as truly Catholic values regulated the life of the European people, its influence on the international level was supreme and its progress in all aspect, not only materially speaking, was overwhelming. On the other hand, the more it strays from such values, the obvious consequence is the darkening of its horizon. Leo XIII compared the agitated times of his pontificate to ‘those happiest of times when the Church was revered as a mother’, emphasizing how peace, tranquility and richness of society is a fruit of the influence of the Church, and that the best institutions and even true culture flourished only when people were submissive to its laws. At this point, to improve the tragic situation of the days in which we live, should we seek an exchange of values with religions or ideologies that will never produce the fruits that are born of the Church?

By any chance, has the mandate of Jesus changed from ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel’ (Mk 16:15) to, ‘Go to the whole world and learn from the unbelievers’?


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The only way for individuals, families and societies to grow, the only way for the life of peoples to progress, is via the culture of encounter, a culture in which all have something good to give and all can receive something good in return. Others always have something to give me, if we know how to approach them in a spirit of openness and without prejudice. This open spirit, without prejudice, I would describe as ‘social humility’, which is what favours dialogue. Only in this way can understanding grow between cultures and religions, mutual esteem without needless preconceptions, in a climate that is respectful of the rights of everyone. Today, either we take the risk of dialogue, we risk the culture of encounter, or we all fall; this is the path that will bear fruit. (Address to Brazil’s leaders of Society, July 27, 2013)
The first attitude is that of regarding every man and woman, even those of different religious traditions, not as rivals, less still enemies, but rather as brothers and sisters. When a person is secure of his or her own beliefs, there is no need to impose or put pressure on others: there is a conviction that truth has its own power of attraction. Deep down, we are all pilgrims on this earth, and on this pilgrim journey, as we yearn for truth and eternity, we do not live autonomous and self-sufficient individual lives; the same applies to religious, cultural and national communities. We need each other, and are entrusted to each other’s care. Each religious tradition, from within, must be able to take account of others. The second attitude which fosters the promotion of religious freedom is the work done in service of the common good. Whenever adherence to a specific religious tradition gives birth to service that shows conviction, generosity and concern for the whole of society without making distinctions, then there too exists an authentic and mature living out of religious freedom. This presents itself not only as a space in which to legitimately defend one’s autonomy, but also as a potential that enriches the human family as it advances. The more men and women are at the service of others, the greater their freedom! Let us look around us: there are so many poor and needy people, so many societies that try to find a more inclusive way of social justice and path of economic development! How great is the need for the human heart to be firmly fixed on the deepest meaning of experiences in life and rooted in a rediscovery of hope! Men and women, inspired in these areas by the values of their respective religious traditions, can offer an important, and even unique, contribution. This is truly a fertile land offering much fruit, also in the field of interreligious dialogue. (Meeting with the leaders of other religions and other Christian denominations, September 21, 2014)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter the various parts of our study


I – Society prospers when united to the Catholic Church
II – Well defined religious principles cannot be considered as ‘prejudices’ or ‘needless preconceptions’

I – Society prospers when united to the Catholic Church

John Paul II

There is no difficult situation that cannot be confronted when one cultivates a Christian life

There is no difficult situation that cannot be adequately confronted when one cultivates a genuine atmosphere of Christian life. Love itself, wounded by sin, is still a redeemed love (cf. CCC, 1608). It is clear that, if sacramental life is weak, the family yields more easily to snares because it is deprived of any defenses. (John Paul II. Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, October 18, 2002)

Authentic development only occurs in light of the Gospel

Only in the light of the Gospel can solutions be found to achieve ‘whatever affects the dignity of individuals and peoples, such as authentic development’ (Sollicitudo rei socialis, 41). A society without fundamental values and ethical principles gradually deteriorates. (John Paul II. Address to the Ambassador of Guatemala to the Holy See, no. 4, November 5, 1998)

Paul VI

Teaching is a function proper to the Church

What is the purpose of the Church? What does it do in the midst of the contemporary world which is so occupied in the feverish work of utilitarian production? Well then, it seemed to us that that beautiful and modern building [Scuola professionale San Paolo] gave us a modern and yet perennial response, that is: the Church teaches! Teaching: this is a function proper to the Church; history bears witness to this. […] The Church has something to teach, something of its own competence, and this is religious truth. This has not been surpassed, nor is it superfluous, but rather necessary for the superior, transcendent and irreplaceable object fitting to religion; that is, true life, the spiritual life now and the life that continues after in eternity; but also necessary for a current temporal end, if it is to be sought according to true, authentic and firm principles, capable of being expressed in a great variety of forms and laws, yes, but not in an equivocal and discordant pluralism that does not consent to a humanly agreeable interpretation within a logical juridical system. (Paul VI. General audience, May 31, 1978)

Pius XI

The Holy Catholic Church forms good citizens - it is impossible to produce true temporal peace by things opposed to the peace of eternity

The more closely the temporal power of a nation aligns itself with the spiritual, and the more it fosters and promotes the latter, by so much the more it contributes to the conservation of the commonwealth. For it is the aim of the ecclesiastical authority by the use of spiritual means, to form good Christians in accordance with its own particular end and object; and in doing this it helps at the same time to form good citizens, and prepares them to meet their obligations as members of a civil society. This follows of necessity because in the City of God, the Holy Roman Catholic Church, a good citizen and an upright man are absolutely one and the same thing. How grave therefore is the error of those who separate things so closely united, and who think that they can produce good citizens by ways and methods other than those which make for the formation of good Christians. For, let human prudence say what it likes and reason as it pleases, it is impossible to produce true temporal peace and tranquility by things repugnant or opposed to the peace and happiness of eternity (Dell’ educaz. crist., lib. I, c. 43.) (Pius XI. Encyclical Divini illius Magistri, no. 54, December 31, 1929)

Benedict XV

By its nature, the Church unites men and society

The Church will certainly not refuse her zealous aid to States united under the Christian law in any of their undertakings inspired by justice and charity, inasmuch as she is herself the most perfect type of universal society. She possesses in her organization and institutions a wonderful instrument for bringing this brotherhood among men, not only for their eternal salvation but also for their material well-being to the sure acquisition of eternal blessings. (Benedict XV. Encyclical Pacem Dei munus, no. 18, May 23, 1920)

Pius X

There is no true civilization without the Church

There is no true civilization without a moral civilization, and no true moral civilization without the true religion: it is a proven truth, a historical fact. (Pius X. Apostolic Letter Notre Charge Apostolique, August 23, 1910)


Human society abundantly benefits from the mission of the Church

In order that these unparalleled benefits might last as long as men should be found on earth, He [Christ] entrusted to His Church the continuance of His work; and, looking to future times, He commanded her to set in order whatever might have become deranged in human society, and to restore whatever might have fallen into ruin. Although the divine renewal we have spoken of chiefly and directly affected men as constituted in the supernatural order of grace, nevertheless some of its precious and salutary fruits were also bestowed abundantly in the order of nature. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Arcanum divinae sapeintiae, nos. 1-2, February 10, 1880)

The divine power of religion has given birth to order for the State

These perils to commonwealth, which are before Our eyes, fill Us with grave anxiety, when We behold the security of rulers and the tranquility of empires, together with the safety of nations, put in peril almost from hour to hour. Nevertheless, the divine power of the Christian religion has given birth to excellent principles of stability and order for the State, while at the same time it has penetrated into the customs and institutions of States. And of this power not the least nor last fruit is a just and wise proportion of mutual rights and duties in both princes and peoples. For in the precepts and example of Christ our Lord there is a wonderful force for restraining in their duty as much those who obey as those who rule; […] (Leo XIII. Encyclical Diuturnum illud, no. 3, June 29, 1881)

No better mode has been devised for the building up and ruling the State than that of the Gospel

And, indeed, wherever the Church has set her foot she has straightway changed the face of things, and has attempered the moral tone of the people with a new civilization and with virtues before unknown. All nations which have yielded to her sway have become eminent by their gentleness, their sense of justice, and the glory of their high deeds. And yet a hackneyed reproach of old date is leveled against her, that the Church is opposed to the rightful aims of the civil government, and is wholly unable to afford help in spreading that welfare and progress which justly and naturally are sought after by every well-regulated State. From the very beginning Christians were harassed by slanderous accusations of this nature, and on that account were held up to hatred and execration, for being (so they were called) enemies of the Empire. […] This odious calumny, with most valid reason, nerved the genius and sharpened the pen of Saint Augustine, who, notably in his treatise, The City of God, set forth in so bright a light the worth of Christian wisdom in its relation to the public wealth that he seems not merely to have pleaded the cause of the Christians of his day, but to have refuted for all future times impeachments so grossly contrary to truth. The wicked proneness, however, to levy like charges and accusations has not been lulled to rest. Many, indeed, are they who have tried to work out a plan of civil society based on doctrines other than those approved by the Catholic Church. Nay, in these latter days a novel conception of law has begun here and there to gain increase and influence, the outcome, as it is maintained, of an age arrived at full stature, and the result of progressive liberty. But, though endeavours of various kinds have been ventured on, it is clear that no better mode has been devised for the building up and ruling the State than that which is the necessary growth of the teachings of the Gospel. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Immortale Dei, no. 1-2, November 1, 1885)

Observation of the Church’s laws brings peaceful life, wealth, and prosperity

Now, who would make bold to deny that the Church, by spreading the Gospel throughout the nations, has brought the light of truth amongst people utterly savage and steeped in foul superstition, and has quickened them alike to recognize the Divine Author of nature and duly to respect themselves? Further, who will deny that the Church has done away with the curse of slavery and restored men to the original dignity of their noble nature; and – by uplifting the standard of redemption in all quarters of the globe, by introducing, or shielding under her protection, the sciences and arts, by founding and taking into her keeping excellent charitable institutions which provide relief for ills of every kind – has throughout the world, in private or in public life, civilized the human race, freed it from degradation, and with all care trained it to a way of Living such as befits the dignity and the hopes of man? And if any one of sound mind compare the age in which We live, so hostile to religion and to the Church of Christ, with those happy times when the Church was revered as a mother by the nations, beyond all question he will see that our epoch is rushing wildly along the straight road to destruction; while in those times which most abounded in excellent institutions, peaceful life, wealth, and prosperity the people showed themselves most obedient to the Church’s rule and laws. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Inscrutabili Dei consilii, no. 5, April 21, 1878)

Pius IX

Society cannot enjoy true peace if it is not of one fold and one shepherd.

We send this Letter of Ours to all the Christians from whom We are separated, with which we exhort them warmly and beseech them with insistence to hasten to return to the one fold of Christ; we desire in fact from the depths of the heart their salvation in Christ Jesus, and we fear having to render an account one day to Him, Our Judge, if, through some possibility, we have not pointed out and prepared the way for them to attain eternal salvation. […] And since, if also, we fulfill in the earth the office of Vicar, with all our heart we await with open arms the return of the wayward sons to the Catholic Church, in order to receive them with infinite fondness into the house of the Heavenly Father and to enrich them with its inexhaustible treasures. By our greatest wish for the return to the truth and the communion with the Catholic Church, upon which depends not only the salvation of all of them, but above all also of the whole Christian society: the entire world in fact cannot enjoy true peace if it is not of one fold and one shepherd. (Pius IX. Encyclical Iam vos omnes, September 13, 1868)

The shocking theory of religious indifference removes the difference between virtue and vice, truth and error, honorable and vile action, Christ and Belial

Also perverse is the shocking theory that it makes no difference to which religion one belongs, a theory which is greatly at variance even with reason. By means of this theory, those crafty men remove all distinction between virtue and vice, truth and error, honorable and vile action. They pretend that men can gain eternal salvation by the practice of any religion, as if there could ever be any sharing between justice and iniquity, any collaboration between light and darkness, or any agreement between Christ and Belial. (Pius IX. Encyclical Qui pluribus, no. 15, November 9, 1846)

There is no more effective remedy for current disasters than to make the Catholic Church flourish in society again

Furthermore, they realize that the evils that afflict us so grievously originate in the losses, which for a long time now, but especially since the rise of Protestantism, have been inflicted on religion and the Catholic Church. They see clearly that when the authority of bishops is oppressed and when increasing numbers of men infringe divine and ecclesiastical commandments without penalty, then the respect of the people for civil authority is likewise diminished. Similarly, the present enemies of public calm instigate revolts against the government more easily. […] They furthermore observe that the long-standing impediments preventing the pastors of the Church from exercising their sacred authority freely are now gradually affecting civil authority. Finally, they observe that there is no readier or more effective remedy for the disasters which harry us than to make religion and the Catholic Church flourish again throughout Italy; in the Church, there is no doubt that men will get immediate and appropriate aid in accordance with their condition and need. (Pius IX. Encyclical Nostis et nobiscum, no. 32, December 8, 1849)

Gregory XVI

There is nothing more damaging for the state than ‘religious liberty’

Experience shows that there is no more direct way of alienating the populace from fidelity and obedience to their leaders than through that indifference to religion propagated by the sect members under the name of religious liberty. (Gregory XVI. Encyclical Inter praecipuas, no. 14 , May 8, 1844)

Saint Augustine of Hippo

The Church secures and maintains earthly peace for all nations and languages

This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby earthly peace is secured and maintained, but recognizing that, however various these are, they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. It therefore is so far from rescinding and abolishing these diversities, that it even preserves and adopts them, so long only as no hindrance to the worship of the one supreme and true God is thus introduced. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. City of God, Book XIX, ch. 17)

givest to men authority over their wives, not to mock the weaker sex, but in the laws of unfeigned love. Thou dost subordinate children to their parents in a kind of free bondage, and dost set parents over their children in a godly rule. Thou bindest brothers to brothers in a religious tie stronger and closer than that of blood. Without violation of the connections of nature and of choice, thou bringest within the bond of mutual love every relationship of kindred, and every alliance of affinity. Thou teachest servants to cleave to their masters from delight in their task rather than from the necessity of their position. Thou renderest masters forbearing to their servants, from a regard to God their common Master, and more disposed to advise than to compel. Thou unitest citizen to citizen, nation to nation, yea, man to man, from the recollection of their first parents, not only in society but in fraternity. (Saint Augustine. De moribus Ecclesiae catholicae, bk. I, ch. 30, no. 63)

II – Well defined religious principles cannot be considered as ‘prejudices’ or ‘needless preconceptions’

John Paul II

To dialogue it is necessary to remain clear and consistent in the faith

Christians today must be formed to live in a world which largely ignores God or which, in religious matters, in place of an exacting and fraternal dialogue, stimulating for all, too often flounders in a debasing indifferentism, if it does not remain in a scornful attitude of ‘suspicion’ in the name of the progress it has made in the field of scientific ‘explanations.’ To ‘hold on’ in this world, to offer to all a ‘dialogue of salvation’ (cf. Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam, part 3) in which each person feels respected in his or her most basic dignity, the dignity of one who is seeking God, we need a catechesis which trains the young people and adults of our communities to remain clear and consistent in their faith, to affirm serenely their Christian and Catholic identity, to ‘see him who is invisible’ (cf. Heb 11:27) and to adhere so firmly to the absoluteness of God that they can be witnesses to Him in a materialistic civilization that denies Him. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Catechesi tradendae, no. 57, October 16, 1979)

Interreligious dialogue can never be a substitute for the proclamation and propagation of the faith - truth must be affirmed with frankness

When Christians live side-by-side with persons of other religions, they have a particular obligation to testify to the oneness and universality of the saving mystery of Jesus Christ and to the consequent necessity of the Church as the means of salvation for all humanity. ‘This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another’ (CDF Christus Dominus (6/8/2000), 22). It is clear, then, that interreligious dialogue can never be a substitute for the proclamation and propagation of the faith, which constitute the primary goal of the Church’s preaching, catechesis and mission. A frank and unambiguous affirmation that human salvation depends on the redemption accomplished by Christ is not an obstacle to dialogue with other religions. In the context of our profession of Christian hope, it cannot be forgotten that it is precisely this hope which is the basis of interreligious dialogue. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Pastores gregis, no. 68, October 16, 2003)

Interreligious dialogue is not an exchange of opinions on one’s own ‘creed’ without any preoccupation of arriving at conclusions

They aren’t lacking who wish to interpret the missionary action [of the Church] as an attempt to impose on others one’s own convictions and options, in contrast with a certain modern spirit, which boasts, as though it was a definitive conquest, of an absolute liberty of thought and personal conscience. According to this perspective, evangelizing activity should be substituted with an interreligious dialogue, which would consist in an exchange of opinions and information, whereby each party would expose his own ‘creed’ and be enriched by the thoughts of others, without any preoccupation of arriving at conclusions. […] Consequently the path that each one wishes to follow according to one’s own education and religious tradition would be respected. But this conception is irreconcilable with the commandment of Christ to the Apostles (cf. Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15), transmitted by the Church […] [The Council] confirmed at the same time the role of the Church, in which it is necessary that man enter and persevere, if he wishes to be saved (Ad gentes, n. 7) […] This traditional doctrine of the Church exposes the inconsistency and superficiality of a relativistic and irenic attitude, regarding the way of salvation in a religion other than that founded in the faith in Christ. (John Paul II. General audience, no. 1-2, May 10, 1995)

One may not invent the faith according to circumstances or individual tastes

There are two points that I would like to particularly emphasize with respect to the transmission of the faith. First of all that catechesis responds to objective and well determined subject matter. One may not invent the faith according to the circumstances or individual tastes. We must receive it in and from the universal community of faith, the Church, to which Christ himself confided the ministry to teach under the guidance of the Spirit of Truth. (John Paul II. Address to the Hispanic Catholic community of United States and Canada, September 13, 1987)

Paul VI

We cannot agree with various forms of religion nor adopt an uncritical attitude - as if all were on an equal footing with what God has Himself revealed definitively and infallibly

Obviously we cannot agree with these various forms of religion, [Judaism, Moslem, Afro-Asiatic religions] nor can we adopt an indifferent or uncritical attitude toward them on the assumption that they are all to be regarded as on an equal footing, and that there is no need for those who profess them to enquire whether or not God has Himself revealed definitively and infallibly how He wishes to be known, loved, and served. Indeed, honesty compels us to declare openly our conviction that the Christian religion is the one and only true religion, and it is our hope that it will be acknowledged as such by all who look for God and worship Him. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 107, August 6, 1964)


Catechesis consists in transmitting the patrimony of the Church to others

The glorification of today [of Maria Berila Boscardin] has also a premise for the study of catechism, which engraves in the innocent soul the love of true wisdom, and guards it for the conquests of maturity. As we reminded recent pilgrimage of Bergamo, ‘the teaching of catechism is a daily sowing in each parish, family and school, that permits the innocent to be strengthened in the spirit of the grace of Christ, and holds in honor the patrimony, which is the true and pure essence of perfect Christianity.’ (John XXIII. Homily for the canonization of Maria Bertilla Boscardin, May 11, 1961)

Pius XI

That all religions are good and praiseworthy: error and distortion of the idea of true religion, that can nowise be approved by Catholics

For since they hold it for certain that men destitute of all religious sense are very rarely to be found, they seem to have founded on that belief a hope that the nations, although they differ among themselves in certain religious matters, will without much difficulty come to agree as brethren in professing certain doctrines, which form as it were a common basis of the spiritual life. […] Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy, since they all in different ways manifest and signify that sense which is inborn in us all, and by which we are led to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule. Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion, they reject it and little by little, turn aside to naturalism and atheism, as it is called; from which it clearly follows that one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 2, January 6, 1928)

Pius IX

Without previous instruction, people might fall into error: sufficiently instruct the laity to recognize the snares laid for them

So that all their efforts may not be fruitless, sufficiently instruct the laity in Christian doctrine and the law of the Lord. Hopefully, they are not too weakened by long license in manifold and increasing vices to be able to recognize the snares laid for them and also the vileness of the errors proposed to them. So We earnestly require you, in your pastoral care, to ceaselessly ensure that the faithful entrusted to you are carefully taught the holy doctrines and precepts of our religion in accordance with their individual capacity; exhort and inspire them in every way to conform their lives and morals to these norms. (Pius IX. Encyclical Nostis et nobiscum, no. 9, December 8, 1849)


Every familiarity should be avoided with those who hide under the mask of universal tolerance – they seek to reconcile Christ and Belial

Everyone should avoid familiarity or friendship with anyone suspected of belonging to masonry or to affiliated groups. Know them by their fruits and avoid them. Every familiarity should be avoided, not only with those impious libertines who openly promote the character of the sect, but also with those who hide under the mask of universal tolerance, respect for all religions, and the craving to reconcile the maxims of the Gospel with those of the revolution. These men seek to reconcile Christ and Belial, the Church of God and the state without God. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Custodi di quella fede, no. 15, December 8, 1892)

Gregory XVI

The Protestants left no means untried to deceive the faithful

But later even more care was required when the Lutherans and Calvinists dared to oppose the changeless doctrine of the faith with an almost incredible variety of errors. They left no means untried to deceive the faithful with perverse explanations of the sacred Books, […] (Gregory XVI. Encyclical Inter praecipuas, no. 4, May 8, 1844)

The ‘Athanasian’ Creed

The Catholic faith is necessary for salvation

Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt perish in eternity. (Denzinger-Hünermann 75, Quicumque or The ‘Athanasian’ Creed)

Sacred Scripture

It is not possible to believe without preaching

For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? (Rom 10:13-14)

Those who know the truth do not need to hear novelties

Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made us: eternal life. I write you these things about those who would deceive you. As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him. (1Jn 2: 24-27)

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