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Pope Francis with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in 2019.Vatican News

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has decried the negative effects of “an absence of fraternal solidarity,” calling for greater “dialogue” and cross-creed collaboration in two messages issued to mark the International Day of Human Fraternity.

In a message published on the U.N.’s International Day of Human Fraternity, Pope Francis marked the fifth anniversary of the Abu Dhabi document on human fraternity, which he signed with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in 2019.

“It is encouraging to see that the journey of dialogue, companionship and mutual esteem which began in Abu Dhabi five years ago continues to bear fruit,” Francis wrote to Mohamed Abdelsalam, who is the secretary-general of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity – the award given to individuals and organizations in light of the 2019 Abu Dhabi document.

READ: Spanish Freemasons praise Pope Francis, laud ‘International Fraternity Day’

Francis thanked the Grand Imam along with the president of the UAE for “their vital support of initiatives aimed at promoting the values of fraternity and social comradeship founded on the truth that all human beings are not only created equal but are intrinsically connected as brothers and sisters, children of our one Father in heaven.”

The Pontiff added that “we cannot fail to recognize the effects of an absence of fraternal solidarity being felt all too intensely by men and women everywhere and by our natural world.” Such an absence of fraternity, he wrote, is evidenced as the “negative impact of environmental destruction and social degradation continues to cause immense suffering for a vast number of our brothers and sisters around the globe.”

He referenced the “timely” nature of promoting the “principles” of fraternity, which he said “can guide humanity through the dark shadows of injustice, hatred and war into the brightness of a world community marked by those values that we see manifest in the varied efforts of this year’s awardees.”

Ultimately, wrote Francis, should such ideals be spread, then the “recipients” of such fraternity can “cast important light on the path to greater social solidarity and fraternal love.”

Francis’ message was read by Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot at the award ceremony in Abu Dhabi. Guixot is the prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue and a member of the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity, which decides upon the annual winners of the Zayed Award.

Similar themes were found in a letter from Pope Francis to the International Congress of the University Platform for Research on Islam (PLURIEL), currently being held in Abu Dhabi alongside the Zayed Award events.

Francis stated that there are “three flaws in the human spirit that destroy fraternity and that must be properly identified if we are to rediscover wisdom and peace.” The three issues he identified were “ignorance of others, absence of listening,” and an “education in intellectual flexibility.”

The pope quoted from his 2020 encyclical on human fraternity, Fratelli tutti, which is widely argued to promote religious indifferentism, highlighting the theme of “dialogue.”

“Getting closer, expressing ourselves, listening to each other, looking at each other, getting to know each other, trying to understand each other, looking for points of contact, all this is summed up in the verb ‘to dialogue,’” he wrote.

Closing his address to the Islamic research group, Francis called on them to “step outside your disciplines, remain curious, cultivate flexibility, listen to the world, don’t be afraid of this world, listen to your brother whom you didn’t choose but whom God put next to you to teach you to love.”

The pope did not mention Christ, the primacy of the Catholic Church, or the call to conversion in either of his two related texts. His two interventions are very much in line with the stance that Francis has taken in recent years, especially in light of the Abu Dhabi document and the kind of “fraternity” promoted by Fratelli tutti, two texts that are problematic for Catholics. 

While Pope Francis has made such “fraternity” an increasingly major aspect of his pontificate – such as at inter-religious events in Rome, Kazakhstan, and Bahrain – and has most regularly held such events in tandem with Islamic leaders, such as the Grand Imam, his stance is seemingly at odds with Catholic tradition. 

READ: Pope seems to ‘overturn’ Gospel in statement with Grand Imam: Church historian

The Abu Dhabi text has been described as seemingly seeking to “overturn the doctrine of the Gospel” due to its promotion of equality of religions in a form of “fraternity.”

According to Church historian Roberto de Mattei, when “fraternity” is divorced from Christian charity, “far from constituting an element of cohesion in society,” it “becomes the source of its disintegration.” He argued that “if men, in the name of fraternity, are forced to live together without an end that gives meaning to their sense of belonging, the ‘ark’ becomes a prison.”

Fratelli tutti has also been similarly condemned by former papal nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, as promoting a “blasphemous” form of brotherhood without God as well as “religious indifferentism.”

READ: Abp. Viganò on Pope’s new Fratelli Tutti document: Brotherhood against God is ‘blasphemous’

Archbishop Viganò added that “religious indifferentism, implicitly promoted in the text Fratelli tutti, which defines as ‘a good for our societies’ the presence of any religion – instead of ‘the liberty and exaltation of Holy Mother Church’ – denies in fact the sovereign rights of Jesus Christ, King and Lord of individuals, of the societies and of nations.”

Pope Leo XIII condemned such arguments in his 1888 encyclical Libertas. Referring to the Church’s relationship with other religions, Leo wrote that the Catholic Church tolerates

certain modern liberties, not because she prefers them in themselves but because she judges it expedient to permit them, she would in happier times exercise her own liberty; and, by persuasion, exhortation, and entreaty would endeavor, as she is bound, to fulfill the duty assigned to her by God of providing for the eternal salvation of mankind.