As the WCC acting general secretary walked, with his cassock and cross, through the shrine, accompanied by a guide, many people came close to him, touched him and some gave him little sheets of papers with names, asking him to pray for them.
Sauca said: “I was very touched by these encounters with people in the shrine. It is heartwarming to see that people of different faiths, despite their differences, recognise one another’s deep spirituality. This goes far beyond formal dialogues.”
When the WCC delegation visited a Zoroastrian temple in Isfahan on the following day, the conversation with the clergy of the temple deepened this theme of spiritual encounters between different faiths..
Sauca concluded from the rich and manifold meetings with people of diverse faiths in Iran that it is important to provide opportunities for encounter that touch on the spiritual dimension of our human existence. “We do not need to be afraid of meeting others. While remaining faithful to our identity and without diminishing it in any way, we can confidently engage with others. People expect genuine dialogue and authentic presence. I did not hide my cross because that is the heart of my identity. And I felt that this genuine presence in their midst made the impact. Our presence and openness help to mutually deepen our spirituality.”
In the meeting with the head of the Islamic seminaries in Iran in Qom, Ayatollah Alireza Arafi, Sauca stressed the importance of encouraging the next generation of clergy in Christianity and Islam to deepen their knowledge about other faiths in order to overcome misunderstanding and prejudice. “Furthermore, we can work together on common challenges in society, and enable authentic encounters that nurture a deep sense of spirituality,” Sauca said.