Argentina: An Interreligious Park Receives Francis’s Blessing

February 06, 2022

In Santiago del Estero, Argentina, an ecumenical and interreligious theme park was inaugurated in October 2021.

This “Encounter Park” (Parque del Encuentro) includes a Catholic Church, a Protestant chapel, a Buddhist temple, a synagogue, and a mosque, all built in a symbolic fraternal embrace around a “Pachamama amphitheater,” and dominated by an “obelisk of human brotherhood.”

The Parque del Encuentro, which covers two and a half hectares and occupies the site of the former municipal zoo, aims to instill in children and young people the virtues of interreligious dialogue, but it will be open to people of all ages.

In the Catholic Church, images of frescoes from the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo will be projected onto the ceiling, showing the close ties that unite this initiative and the Pope Francis’s Vatican.

Indeed, according to Argentinian journalist Lucas Schaerer, “Francis has united all religions and is recognized among religious leaders as a big brother in the interreligious dialogue he promoted even before his election.” This park represents, still according to this journalist, “the South American cult of Pachamama, an expression of the fertility of Mother Earth.”

In a handwritten note sent to the Argentine political scientist and communication specialist Federico Wals, who had addressed the pope to seek his advice on the realization of the park, Francis writes: “The news of this undertaking made me happy. That in the midst of so many disagreements, a community has the strength to do something like this, presupposes courage, audacity and, above all, the desire to walk together.”

And the pope explained: “[those who take] small steps towards meeting are the architects of peace and harmony” to counter a “Third World War” which is evolving “by bits.”

We can only invite Francis to read the encyclical of his predecessor Pius XI, Mortalium Animos (January 6, 1928):

“But We do know that from this it is an easy step to the neglect of religion or indifferentism and to modernism, as they call it. Those, who are unhappily infected with these errors, hold that dogmatic truth is not absolute but relative, that is, it agrees with the varying necessities of time and place and with the varying tendencies of the mind, since it is not contained in immutable revelation, but is capable of being accommodated to human life.”