Cardinal Ravasi reflects on Christopher Hitchens’ life and death
“I would have liked the idea of dialoguing with him beyond the controversies and preconceived attitudes,” said Cardinal Ravasi on his blog Dec. 16.
Since earlier this year, Cardinal Ravasi’s Pontifical Council has hosted a series of events around Europe in which atheist and agnostic intellectuals have engaged in dialogue with their Catholic counterparts.
The initiative, inspired by Pope Benedict, is known as the Courtyard of the Gentiles and is named after area in the Temple of Jerusalem where Jews and Gentiles could meet and discuss.
“I had no way of inviting Hitchens to enter the courtyard,” wrote Cardinal Ravasi, who has invited several high-profile atheists to events in recent months, including Pope Benedict’s World Day of Peace gathering in Assisi in October.
In his analysis of Hitchens’ worldview, Cardinal Ravasi drew an analogy to a conversation once held between the French Catholic philosopher Jean Guitton and the cancer-stricken French President Francois Mitterrand.
Guitton explained that his experience as a philosopher told him humanity had “the choice between two solutions: absurdity and mystery.”
When Mitterrand asked if the two concepts were not, in fact, identical, Guitton replied “no, absurdity is an impenetrable wall against which we splat in suicide,” but “mystery is a ladder you climb from step to step towards light and hope.”
“Christopher Hitchens,” observed Cardinal Ravasi, “had chosen the first solution, denouncing religion as ‘the main source of hatred in this world.’”
Cardinal Ravasi hopes that the Courtyard of the Gentiles will be “a space open to the light in which they meet and clash – absurdity and mystery.”
As a “man of faith,” he always hopes “to see the young rebel turn towards the light and go up step by step to the ocean of love in which all the hatred in the world is immersed.”
His final hope for Christopher Hitchens was that “death was for him ‘a door that opens and breaks into the future,’” Cardinal Ravasi said, recalling the aphorism of the English writer Graham Greene, who said that death for him “would be like entering a new infancy.” [more]