Spring 1998

Interreligious Dialogue and Jewish-Christian Relations

Joseph Ratzinger Benedict XVI

"The religions can encounter one another only by delving more deeply into the truth, not by giving it up. Skepticism does not unite. Nor does sheer pragmatism."

In the year 1453, just after the conquest of Constantinople, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa wrote a remarkable book entitled De pace fidei. The crumbling empire was convulsed by religious controversies; the Cardinal himself had taken part in the (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to reunite the Eastern and Western Churches, and Islam was back on the horizon of Western Christianity. Cusanus learned from the events of his time that religious peace and world peace are intimately connected. His response to this problem was a kind of utopia, which, however, he intended to be a real contribution to the cause of peace. “Christ, the judge of the universe, summons a heavenly council, because the scandal of religious plurality on earth has become intolerable.”1 At this council “the divine Logos leads seventeen representatives of the various nations and religions to under- stand how the concerns of all the religions can be fulfilled in the Church represented by Peter.”2  “In the teachings of the wise you do not find,” Christ says, “diverse faiths, but all have one and the same belief.” “God, as Creator, is triune and one; as infinite, he is neither triune, nor one, nor anything that can be said. For the names that are ascribed to God come from creatures, whereas he himself is ineffable and exalted above everything that can be named and predicated.”3


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1. H.U. von Balthasar, Glaubhaft ist nur Liebe (Einsiedeln, 1963), 10.

2. R. Haubst, “Nikolaus v. Kues,” in: LThK2 VII, col. 988–991, citation in col. 990.

3. De pace fidei 7, 11, 16, 20, 62 (Op. omnia VII. Hamburg, 1959), cited in Balthasar, Glaubhaft ist nur Liebe, 10f.