By Robin Gomes
The Catholic Church of India, Indonesia’s Muslims and Iran have expressed their sorrow at the death of French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the Vatican Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, who passed away last week.
Funeral – July 12
The 74-year old cardinal died on July 5 at Hartford, United States, where he was undergoing treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
Cardinal Tauran’s funeral service is scheduled for July 12 in Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinal will preside over the funeral Mass, at the end of which Pope Francis will preside over the valedictory ceremony.
The former Vatican Secretary for Relations with States (equivalent to foreign minister) under St. Pope John Paul II, was appointed by Pope Francis as Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, who takes charge of the affairs of the Catholic Church during the vacancy between pontificates.
The veteran diplomat who served under 3 popes, was the senior cardinal who announced the election of Pope Francis on March 13, 2013.
“In him the world has lost a great leader who could build bridges and a diplomat of rare quality who could speak the truth with charity, grace and compassion. He was much appreciated by State and Government officials around the world,” wrote Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) in a statement on July 7.
On a personal note, Cardinal Gracias said that besides being a “brother” Cardinal Tauran was “even more a personal friend” with whom he could share many of his “concerns about the Church and about peace and harmony in the world.”
“He was a special friend of India and in my various meetings with him, he manifested to me his deep love for our country,” noted Cardinal Gracias who is also president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), the body of India’s Latin-rite bishops, and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) as well.
The Indian cardinal noted that “Cardinal Tauran visited India several times and most memorably led the Vatican delegation for inter- religious dialogue with very senior representatives of Hinduism at a two day Colloquium in Mumbai, a Colloquium that was a major step forward in fostering inter-religious dialogue in India.” “He knew how to respect every religion and understood the dignity and values that different expressions of faith contributed to the wellbeing in the world.”
“In the death of Cardinal Tauran not simply the Church in India and the world has lost a great leader, but India itself has lost one of its great admirers and lovers of our religions and cultures. We deeply mourn his death and pray to God to reward him for all his endeavours on earth and especially his efforts to bring people of all faiths, religions and cultures together.”
Indonesian Muslims are also mourning the late cardinal, saying he did much to develop interfaith ties during his visit to the country nine years ago.
In November 2009, Cardinal Tauran visited Indonesia where he met Muslim leaders and visited Istiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, located next to Assumption Cathedral Church in Jakarta.
Azumardy Azra, a respected Muslim intellectual who recently chaired a Jakarta summit of Muslim scholars from around the world, described Cardinal Tauran's death a big loss for global interreligious dialogue.
"He played an important role in building bridges, tolerance and mutual respect between the Catholic Church, Muslims and those of other religions," he told UCANEWS on July 9.
Azra, the rector of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University of Jakarta hoped his successor will “continue his work to build interfaith relations to realize harmony and peace."
Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, chairman of the youth wing of Muhammmadiyah, Indonesia's second-largest Islamic organization, also expressed sadness at the death of Cardinal Tauran.
"We need leaders [like Tauran] who can foster interreligious ties, who can provide solutions when religions face conflict," he said. "His visit to Indonesia improved interreligious relations, particularly between Muslims and the Catholic Church," Simanjuntak added.
Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also condoled the death of Cardinal Tauran, recalling his efforts in fostering understanding among faiths.
“This erudite man, who was regarded as one the Holy See’s renowned scientific and religious figures, made every effort to boost solidarity among followers of all divine faiths and promote dialogue among religions without any religious bias, nescience and extremism,” wrote Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a condolence message on Monday to his counterpart Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States.
“He was one of the far-sighted men who, by holding bilateral and international meetings, managed to establish continuous dialogue among leaders of different faiths, especially Muslim and Christian scholars,” Zarif wrote, invoking God Almighty to bestow peace upon the soul of Cardinal Tauran. (Source: CBCI, UCANEWS)