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Not too long ago, esteemed journalist and papal biographer George Weigel wrote a compelling book summarizing the increasingly secularism of France.

The book is aptly titled “The Cube and The Cathedral,” as it highlights a culture which praises, in Weigel’s words, “a fearless cube” – a modern architectural masterpiece – over the Notre Dame Cathedral. His introductory question for readers of the book is this: “Which culture, [the one of the cube or the one of the cathedral], would better protect human rights?”

Just a few years after this book has been published, Pope Benedict has taken this question to action. Recognizing this chasm between the secular and the religious faithful, but the common goal of both to protect humanity, the Holy Father has called for increased dialogue between Christians and non-believers in an initiative he is calling “The Courtyard of Gentiles.”

A radical initiative in an increasingly secular time, and the pope’s remarks at the closing of the first summit indicate the need for this work.

“Dear friends, you must build bridges between one another. You must seize the opportunity that has been given you to seek, in the depths of your consciences and through solid and well-reasoned reflection, the ways to a profound dialogue. You have so much to say to one another. Do not close your consciences before the challenges and problems facing you.

“I deeply believe that the encounter between faith and reason enables man to discover himself. But all too often reason is warped by the pressure of interests and the lure of profit, which it is forced to recognize as the ultimate criterion. The search for truth is not easy. And if each of us is called to make a courageous decision in favor of truth, this is because there are no shortcuts to the happiness and beauty of a perfect life. Jesus says as much in the Gospel: ‘The truth will make you free.’

And free we will be if we can start with our commonalities in our dialogue for the protection of life.

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