Rome, Italy – Hundreds of religious leaders and scholars visited the Vatican earlier this week for a momentous interfaith conference that celebrates the complementarity man and woman.
Pope Francis began the conference on Monday, but Deseret News reports that the gathering is significant for at least three other reasons:
It comes as thought leaders around the world increasingly recognize how a retreat from marriage is creating an unprecedented shock to social, cultural and economic institutions.
It highlights the powerful convening role of the Vatican for interfaith dialogue — a role it has cultivated since the Vatican II conference some 50 years ago.
And it marks the first time that leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will participate in a Vatican event with the pope.
President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the LDS First Presidency, spoke to the conference on Tuesday. He was accompanied by Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Bishop Gérald Caussé of the Presiding Bishopric.
The conference, officially known as Humanum: An International Interreligious Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman, will bring together presenters from 23 countries and 14 faith traditions, including Judaism, Sunni and Shi’ite Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism and Sikh, in an effort to strengthen the tradition of male-female marriage for "the good of the spouses themselves and for the good of all who depend upon them."
The presenters include what a blogger called "powerful media personalities," including Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the UK and philosopher; Rick Warren, senior pastor at Saddleback Church in California and author of the best-seller "The Purpose-Driven Life"; and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Hundreds of other observers will attend, including two Utahns, acting Sutherland Institute CEO Stanford Swim and BYU family law professor Lynn Wardle, as well as Princeton professor Robert P. George, co-author of “What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.”
The international and interreligious conference is an effort to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life in light of the rise of what some scholars call post-familialism.