In an interview during his return flight from Bahrain on Sunday, Francis answered a question regarding the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and living together,” which the Pope signed together with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi in 2019.
“I have been thinking a lot these days – and we talked about it with the Grand Imam – about how the idea of the Abu Dhabi Document came about,” Francis said.
The Pope went on to explain how the idea of the Abu Dhabi document was born during a lunch with the Grand Imam where they broke bread and gave it to each other as a “gesture of friendship.”
“And towards the end, I don’t know who came up with the idea, we said, ‘Why don’t we make a paper about this meeting?’” Francis stated. “So the Abu Dhabi document was born.”
“The two secretaries got to work, with a draft going back and forth, and finally, we took advantage of the Abu Dhabi meeting to publish it.”
“It was something that came from God,” Francis proclaimed. “You can’t understand it otherwise, because none of us had this in mind. It emerged during a friendly lunch, and that is a big thing.”
Francis went on to explain how the Abu Dhabi document served as the basis for his encyclical Fratelli Tutti which was published in October 2020.
“Then I kept thinking, and the Abu Dhabi document was the basis of Fratelli Tutti; what I wrote about human friendship in Fratelli Tutti is based on the Abu Dhabi document,” Francis said. “I believe that one cannot think of such a path without thinking of a special blessing from the Lord in this path.”
“I didn’t even know what the Great Imam’s name was, and then we became friends and did something as two friends, and now we talk every time we meet,” the Roman Pontiff stated, adding that “[t]he document is relevant today, and work is being done to make it known.”
The Abu Dhabi document has been widely criticized by faithful Catholics for putting the Catholic faith and its worship of the God of Revelation on the same plane with religions that do not worship the true God and deliberately reject Him. It also contradicts the teaching according to which there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis made a stipulation in a private conversation with Kazakhstan’s Bishop Athanasius Schneider, saying that the diversity of religion falls under the “Permissive Will” of God, rather than his Perfect Will, meaning that God only allows false religions to exist rather than actively willing them.
Schneider stressed that the Pope must publicly correct the “dubious passage concerning the ‘diversity of religions” and that a private comment is not enough “because of the confusion in the Church that is growing daily concerning the truth that the Faith in Jesus Christ as the only Redeemer of mankind is the only religion directly and positively willed by God.”
However, the dubious passage in the document was never publicly corrected or clarified by the Pope or another Vatican official.