On October 31, 2019, a study afternoon was held in commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan Al-Kamil of Egypt. The aim of the study afternoon was to promote dialogue and contribute to peace building. The event took place at the Seraphicum International College in Rome.
The event followed the presentation of the docu-film “The Sultan and the Saint” (USA 2016) that the Faculty hosted on May 9, 2018. The episode in Damietta (1219) was reread in the light of the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” signed in Abu Dhabi, by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad AL-TAYYEB (February 4, 2019). This document, in fact, invites us to continue the path of dialogue between cultures and religions through mutual knowledge and cooperation for peace.
The 800th anniversary commemorative meeting focused attention on those radical principles that made it possible for St. Francis and Al-Kamil to meet, get to know each other and accept each other. The speakers, moderated by Friar Emanuele RIMOLI, identified and developed some of those principles.
Sr. Kathleen WARREN (Loyola University, USA) developed the theme of “Peace”, focusing attention on the pillars of the of St. Francis’ vocation, which are useful for deepening human fraternity and triggering peace processes (willingness to convert, unconditional acceptance of the human condition in its natural fragility, mercy, respect, hospitality, interdependence and unity in diversity or universal fraternity).
His Eminence, Gianfranco Cardinal RAVASI, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, developed the theme of “Beauty”, retracing some stages of the via pulchritudinis [way of beauty] so dear to the Franciscan tradition (the beauty seen in the cosmos, in the person, in the Word and, finally, the beauty that is Christ).
The Imam of Milan, Yahya PALLAVICINI, President of COREIS (Italian Islamic Religious Community), illustrated Islamic doctrine on the theme of “Goodness”, showing its complexity of meaning (the goodness and piety of God, the goodness and meekness of God, goodness understood as the virtuous exercise of good), with an emphasis on never separating goodness from faith, and on the penalty for inconsistency and false witness regarding God’s goodness towards his creatures.
Finally, the Little Sister of Jesus, Paola FRANCESCA, gave a presentation on the theme of “Coexistence”, in which, she talked about her thirty-five years as a missionary in Syria. She stressed that it is essential to build a relationship of trust and friendship, to cultivate a closeness that fosters the “dialogue of life” (meeting, getting to know each other and overcoming prejudices) starting with our common humanity. This is the only way that we can arrive at a mature coexistence, one that also demonstrates a willingness to learn from the other.
The speakers, with their different experiences and fields of interest, showed, through the direct testimony of their skills, how it is still possible to dialogue without suspicion or false illusions, 800 years after the meeting between St. Francis and Al-Kamil.
Friar Emanuele RIMOLI
Photo: Elisabetta LO IACONO – Seraphicum Press Office