French Cardinal Bernard Panafieu, the retired archbishop of Marseille and a major proponent of interreligious dialogue, tolerance and respect, died Nov. 12 at the age of 86.
As archbishop, Cardinal Panafieu spoke out about business policies that increased poverty in southern France, criticizing the practice of companies moving abroad as “reducing man to a merchandise” and provoking “desperate competition” for scarce resources.
“How can we not react against a system which forgets the economy’s human dimension and condemns people to unemployment, forced retirement” or forced relocation, which was having “serious repercussions” for the stability of marriages and families, he had said.
As a member of Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and head of the French bishops’ interfaith committee, Cardinal Panafieu also worked to build bridges with all religions and promote tolerance despite the existence of religious fanaticism on all sides.
The presence and activity of a variety of religions are a mark of the freedoms that states must guarantee and should not be feared, he said.
The Catholic Church is not afraid of religious pluralism because it “draws its passion for peaceful coexistence from the heart of Christ whose passion for humanity has no borders,” he once said.
He was named Archbishop of Marseille in 1995. St. John Paul II made him a cardinal in 2003 at the age of 72.
With his death, the College of Cardinals has 218 members, 120 of whom are under the age of 80.