Jakarta (indcatholicnews)- Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has paid a visit to the national Istiqlal mosque, the largest in Southeast Asia, during his first official trip to the country.
Cardinal Tauran, walking barefoot, was accompanied by Jesuit Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Jakarta, Coadjutor Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta and Bandung Bishop Johannes Maria Trilaksyanta Pujasumarta, a member of the
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Several officials of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference also took part in the 25 November visit.
The mosque's imam Kiai Hajj Syarifuddin Muhammad warmly welcomed the Catholics. "This mosque does not belong only to Muslims but all religious followers. They all are welcome here," he said.
The national mosque of Indonesia, which can hold more than 100,000 people, stands across the road from the Assumption Cathedral Church in Central Jakarta. The mosque's main rectangular prayer hall building is topped by a 45-meter-diametre spherical dome supported by 12 columns.
"This is the first time I feel a sincere atmosphere of neighborhood. It seems there is no gap between Muslims and Catholics," Cardinal Tauran said.
In an earlier visit to the cathedral, the cardinal said Muslims had lessons for Christians. "Muslims have a very strong spirituality. They wake up early in the morning to pray," he said. "Our young priests should follow this example ... waking up early in the morning to pray to start their daily activities."
He said it was vital for Catholics to take part in the lives of other communities.
"We, Catholics, must be witnesses to the surrounding communities. This is one of the meanings of interreligious dialogue. And to be witnesses, we need to have a deep spirituality," he said.
Nasaruddin Umar, director of the Religious Affairs Ministry's Directorate General for Muslim Community Guidance, told UCA News that he was impressed with Cardinal Tauran's visit to this mosque. "It means Christians can be at peace with Muslims," he said.
The mosque was designed by Protestant architect Frederich Silaban to celebrate independence. Istiqlal means "independence" in Arabic. The country's first president Soekarno broke ground on the site on 24 August 24, 1961. It took 17 years to build and
was opened by the country's second president Soeharto on 22 February 1978.
Cardinal Tauran arrived in Indonesia on 24 Novemebr and is expected to depart on 1 December.
According to organizers, the trip aims to give the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue a better understanding of the religious situation in the country as well as help the Church forge better ties with other religious communities here.
On 26 November, the cardinal met with leaders of the Wahid Institute. The institute, founded by former president Abdurrahman Wahid, works to bring about a just and peaceful world by espousing a moderate and tolerant view of Islam.
On the same day, the cardinal met with leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, the two largest Islamic organizations in Indonesia. He is also expected to meet with Hindu leaders in Bali and Muslim leaders in Makassar and Yogyakarta.