Cardinal Cupich addresses Parliament of the World’s Religions

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Friday, August 18, 2023

Cardinal Cupich addresses Parliament of the World’s Religions

Cardinal Cupich spoke on the topic of conscience as it relates to how we interact with each other during a "Conscience Plenary" on Aug. 16, 2023 at the Parliament of the World’s Religions that took place at McCormick Place Aug. 14-18, 2023. The Parliament of World Religions was founded in Chicago in 1893 and has convened six times over 30 years. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich spoke on the topic of conscience as it relates to how we interact with each other during a "Conscience Plenary" on Aug. 16, 2023 at the Parliament of the World’s Religions at McCormick Place. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants listen to Cardinal Cupich's talk. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich smiles during his talk. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Cardinal Cupich was one of several speakers to address the issue of conscience during a plenary session Aug. 16 at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, which took place at McCormick Place Aug. 14-18.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is the largest, most diverse and inclusive interfaith convening of people of faith, spirituality and goodwill.

Its origins are rooted in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where the first convening of the parliament created a global platform for engagement of religions of the East and West. It was thereafter recognized as the birthplace of the modern interfaith movement.

This year’s theme was “A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom and Human Rights.”

While conscience formation has been the focus of spiritual writers and religious leaders for many years, it is vital to discuss today, Cardinal Cupich told an audience of several hundred.

“These past few years have been difficult for all of us,” the cardinal said. “We’ve also become more aware than ever of our interconnections with one another and our environment. Technological advances allow us to speak directly in real time with people down the street as easily as with those on the other side of the world. This previously unimagined access to one another has been a gift, no doubt. Yet, there are also some unfortunate dimensions of our newfound use of technology. For instance, it is very easy to seek out and talk with those whom we find most agreeable, rarely or never listening to those who oppose our views can harden our positions.”

The algorithms that power social media tend to connect those with similar opinions, making dialogue with people who think differently difficult, he said.

“We have long moved on from Robert Putnam’s depiction of ‘bowling alone’ and are now ‘surfing alone,’ and being led to virtual spaces of common outlook and perspective by the very devices that provide us with the unmatched ability to connect with the world,” Cardinal Cupich said. “Is the world at our fingertips or are our fingertips narrowing our world?”

Gatherings such as the parliament provide opportunities to address these challenges, he said.

“If we hope to advance the causes of peace and justice in the world, we must continue to seek out forums like this to connect with one another in recognition of our differences and our diversity and turn our awareness and concern into action,” he said.

The cardinal referenced a document on human fraternity signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, in 2019 in the United Arab Emirates.

“Let me focus on the declaration’s first core crisis in the modern world — the desensitized conscience,” Cardinal Cupich said. “To be properly formed a conscience needs to be sensitized, to be aware of others and of all creation. The very word ‘conscience’ means ‘knowing together with,’ which implies that we have to look at the whole truth, the whole reality, which includes the voices of others, past and present. Sensitizing our conscience requires us to admit that conscience is not formed in a vacuum. Conscience formation requires cultivating awareness and respect for others, but also learning from others by encountering them in the depth of their humanity.”

Religious and spiritual traditions can help people sensitize their consciences and build community, he said.

“We must recognize that our religious traditions and personal experiences may have led our consciences to be formed differently and so these differences always need to be respected. We must see one another, listen to one another, and learn from one another,” he said. “It is only with patience and through recognizing and respecting our common humanity that we can come to see and join together to respond to those who are hurting and in need. Christians believe that the image of God resides in each and every human person.”

Following his remarks, Cardinal Cupich signed the parliament’s Global Ethic, which the organization describes as “a landmark declaration of the Parliament of the World’s Religions stating the universal values and principles shared by the world’s religious, spiritual and cultural traditions.”


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