By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The world needs a culture of encounter that can open a way for respectful dialogue that doesn’t resort to hostility, Pope Francis said.

Speaking to members of the Swedish Academy Nov. 19, the pope said the principle of constructive dialogue is something “believers and nonbelievers alike can agree on.”

“Dialogue is not synonymous with relativism,” he said. “Indeed, society is all the more noble whenever it cultivates the search for truth and is rooted in fundamental truths, and especially when it acknowledges that every human being possesses an inalienable dignity.”

The Swedish Academy is a cultural institution founded in 1786 by King Gustav III. Based in Stockholm, the institution is responsible for choosing the winners of the Nobel Prize for literature.

In his address, the pope said that “the long periods of confinement” due to the coronavirus pandemic have tested humanity’s “capacity to dialogue with others.”

“We find ourselves a little more distant from others, a little more reserved, perhaps more guarded, or simply less inclined to join with others, to work side by side, with the satisfaction and effort born of building something together,” he said.

He also warned that an inability to dialogue with others “diminishes our capacity for relationships” and “risks playing unwittingly into the hands of the culture of indifference.”

The “daily practice of encounter and dialogue,” he said, is “a style of living that makes no headlines yet helps the human community to move forward and to grow in social friendship.”

Pope Francis encouraged the members of the Swedish Academy, “who, so to say, have the pulse of contemporary culture,” to promote a new culture of social dialogue in contrast to “the pervasive growth of social media,” which “risks replacing dialogue with a welter of monologues, often aggressive in tone.”

“Social dialogue, instead, involves the ability to respect the other’s point of view with sincerity and without deceit,” the pope said. “On this basis, we are together called to promote the culture of encounter. Let us arm our children with the weapons of dialogue! Let us teach them to fight the good fight of the culture of encounter!”