Authorities, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
I am happy to accept the kind invitation extended by Monsignor Luca Bressan, director of Ecumenism and Dialogue in the diocese of Milan, and by ExpoNet, to represent the greetings and the adhesion of COREIS Italiana (Islamic Religious Community) and the al-Wahid Mosque in Via Meda in Milan, for the signing of the Milan Charter at Expo Milano 2015.
The contents of this Charter remind us of the teaching of the doctrine and the words of the masters concerning our shared and fraternal responsibilities as representatives of God on earth, and concerning the value of a healthy relationship between mankind and nature… the earth, the water and the sky, thirst and hunger, spiritual and material nourishment.
The last time I was a guest at Expo was during the month of Ramadan, invited by Commissioner Giuseppe Sala and Minister Bruno Pasquino, for an event involving all the Pavilions of the nations present in this edition of the Universal Exposition, and in particular dedicated to representatives of the Islamic world who at sunset were interrupting their ritual fasting.
This was an occasion for presenting the symbolism of abstaining from food and drink in order to share the benediction of conviviality interpreted with sensitivity towards the sacred, in memory of God who bestows life and renews creation in every instant. So I was able to present the authentic face of religious authorities and our attention to the ritual qualities of nourishment as a moment when grace descends and distributes its benefits on various planes of the mankind’s being.
This harmony, which every believer savors in the moment of their daily meal, is the fruit of a process which begins with the cycle of life and the convergence of many different cultivations, transformations and processes which allow various different ingredients and elements interacting to satisfy humanity’s hunger and thirst. But this same harmony must be recognized both in the richness of various different food traditions and in the extraordinary synthesis which every individual lives as a microcosm of humanity and the world compared to the macrocosm of God’s Universe.
All religions, including Islam, serve to remind believers of this primordial dimension of nature and the environment, which surrounds us and nourishes us in the measure to which mankind manages to fulfil his function of service, respect and connection between worlds.
It was during the month of Ramadan – when our community concentrates on prayer and fasting, without ever abandoning our daily responsibilities and our care for others – that we benefitted so much from reading and meditating upon the Encyclical, Praised Be, by Pope Francis. And I am happy to conclude now by reading some extracts from a letter sent to the Pope by my noble father and master sheikh Abd al-Wahid Pallavicini.
“If exterior deserts are multiplying across the world, because interior deserts have expanded so greatly, the ecological crisis represents a call for a profound interior conversion.” We have been profoundly struck by the extraordinary synthesis of this phrase, which integrates a quotation by Benedict XVI from paragraph 217 on Ecological Conversion.
This synthesis, actually, can become – for every man and woman of good will – the spur for a providential and authentic conversion: the recognition of one’s crisis, the exterior and interior desert, and to reply with a vocation, “to aim for a different lifestyle”, to have the courage to change mentality towards a traditional reorientation of one’s being, in conformity with what you, Holiness, rightly call the “model of Saint Francis of Assisi, to propose a healthy relation with creation as one dimension of a person’s overall conversion.”
Our ritual space aims to be an Oasis, as Cardinal Archbishop Angel Scola would say, for meditation, theological exploration and confrontation, open to the city and its citizens. The hope is that from this Milan Charter, produced by Expo Milano 2015, a new oasis may be generated, capable of changing the mentality which violates and destroys natural resources, does not respect the identity of mankind and ignores the timeless call of religions. A truly ecumenical and interreligious oasis where we can eat and drink fraternally, both spiritually and practically, and pause to rediscover the correspondences with the dynamic of divine harmony, and inspire healthy consequences among the peoples of the earth.