Catholic News Service photo
Pope Francis embraces Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, at the Vatican in late March. In a message to Patriarch Bartholomew, the pope called for increased cooperation among Christians to protect religious freedom and the right to promote Christian values in society without discrimination.
Catholic News Service photo
Pope Francis embraces Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, at the Vatican in late March. In a message to Patriarch Bartholomew, the pope called for increased cooperation among Christians to protect religious freedom and the right to promote Christian values in society without discrimination.
VATICAN CITY — In societies increasingly made up of people of different cultures and religions, people must learn the art of dialogue and reach out to others with respect and friendship, Pope Francis said.

"Dialogue does not mean renouncing your identity" or "accepting compromises on faith and Catholic morals," the pope told members of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Meeting council members Nov. 28 at the end of their plenary meeting, which focused on the role of religions in society, Pope Francis said true dialogue is not a negotiation, but requires participants to share who they really are and ask others to do likewise.

"Interreligious dialogue and evangelization are not mutually exclusive," the pope said, but they actually strengthen each other. "We don't impose anything, we don't use some subtle strategy to attract the faithful, but rather we give witness to what we believe in and who we are with joy and simplicity."

A relationship in which people put aside what they believe or pretend to believe differently would not be authentic and would help no one, the pope said.

Pope Francis said modern societies are demonstrating fear of other religions, but also fear of any religion, which is another reason why followers of different faiths should meet, dialogue and work together to promote the common good and show others that faith makes positive contributions to society.

Religion, he said, is often seen as "something useless or even dangerous," and in some countries some Christians are asked to set aside their religious convictions if they want to exercise their professions.

"The idea that peaceful coexistence is possible only by hiding one's religious affiliation is widespread," Pope Francis said. There again, he said, what society is left with is something fake, which cannot benefit anyone.

"Certainly, it's necessary that everything be done with respect for the  convictions of others, including those who do not believe," the pope said, "but we must have the courage and patience to encounter others, bringing who we are."

A future of peace for everyone, he said, will require "a coexistence that is respectful of diversity, not the homogenization of a theoretically neutral" way of thinking.

Full religious freedom is an essential part of that respectful diversity, he said.

The Catholic Church will continue to press for religious freedom and it  will continue to denounce the many situations of political and economic tension where the unscrupulous use religious or cultural differences to exacerbate fears, Pope Francis said.

"There is only one path for overcoming fear," he said, "and it is that of dialogue, encounters marked by friendship and respect. This path is the human path."