March 30, 2011

“Courtyard of the Gentiles”

Photo courtesy of
Both the idea and the name—“Courtyard of the Gentiles”—came from Benedict XVI himself, the Pope-philosopher. The meeting, promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture and launched with major international participation on Thursday at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO, was aimed at recovering a broad cultural dialogue between believers and non-believers, because, as the Pope said in his Christmas greetings to the Roman curia on December 21, 2009, “To the dialogue with the religions must be added today the dialogue with those to whom God is unknown.”

Photo courtesy of
The initiative took its name from the space in the area of the great Temple at Jerusalem, in which Jews and gentiles met and engaged each other. And the choice of Paris as the venue for the conference was no accident: la Ville Lumière, with its symbolic status as the home of the Enlightenment and with its modernist La Grande Arche de la Défense, the monument to what the French call laïcité which is almost a perfect cube and which inspired the provocative title of George Weigel’s The Cube and the Cathedral.

With the promotion of the “Courtyard of the Gentiles” Benedict XVI created “a new starting point for dialogue between believers and nonbelievers,” the Vatican spokesman said. And I think we can believe him. So here are a couple of reading suggestions for those who want to learn more about the whole thing:

  1. The full text of Pope Benedict XVI’s video message to participants at the meeting.
  2. An initial assessment of the initiative, on the part of Cardinal Ravasi, and a conversation with a French intellectual of Bulgarian origin, Julia Kristeva, who has been one of the most dedicated participants in the meeting. Both of the interviews were published in Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Episcopal conference.

And here is a video introduction to the initiative from Rome Reports:

~ First written for The Metaphysical Peregrine ~


  1. It is fascinating. The Holy Father's address is loving and encouraging. It's a first step, but a very good first step.

  2. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is a really good idea and a great project. I hope and pray they achieve their goals.