Vatican to launch dialogue with atheists

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican announced a new initiative aimed at
promoting dialogue between theists and atheists to be launched with a
two-day event this March in Paris.

The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture will sponsor a series
of seminars on the theme of "Religion, Light and Common Reason," at
various locations in the city, including Paris-Sorbonne University.

The events will conclude with a party for youth in the courtyard of
the Cathedral of Notre Dame, followed by prayer and meditation inside
the cathedral.

The initiative, called "Courtyard of the Gentiles," takes its name
from a section of the ancient Temple of Jerusalem accessible to
non-Jews, which Pope Benedict XVI has used as a metaphor for dialogue
between Catholics and non-believers.

"I believe that the church should also today open a sort of
`courtyard of the gentiles' where men can in some way hook on to God,
without knowing him and before having gained access to his mystery,"
Benedict said in Dec. 2009.

The pope has made turning back the tide of Western secularism one of
the major campaigns of his papacy. The Vatican last year established the
Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization to focus especially on
promoting Christianity in Europe.

Francis X. Rocca

Francis X. Rocca writes for Religion News Service.

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