On Saturday, May 4, the pontiff told the elite force who serve as his bodyguards that life in the barracks would prepare them for life in the wider, rapidly changing society outside.
“Above all you have the opportunity to create healthy friendship and train yourselves to respect the peculiarities and the idea of others, learning to recognize in the other a brother and a companion with whom to share serenely a stretch of the road,” he said in Italian.
“This will help you to live in society with the right attitude, recognizing cultural, religious, and social diversity as human wealth and not as a threat. This is particularly important in a world where there are, as never before, large movements of populations and people searching for security and a dignified life.”
Pope Francis’s endorsement of religious plurality follows his February signing of a controversial statement called the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” which states that a “pluralism and diversity” of religious is “willed by God.”
The document was also signed by Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque, during an interreligious meeting in Abu Dhabi on February 4. The event was part of Pope Francis’s three-day apostolic visit to the United Arab Emirates, a journey meant to promote interreligious dialogue and support the country’s estimated 1 million–strong Catholic minority.
The most obviously controversial passage of the document reads:
Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept.
The idea that “God not only permits, but positively wills, the pluralism and diversity of religions, both Christian and non-Christian” was presented as one of Pope Francis’s heresies by the authors of the April 30 “Open Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church.” The authors cited the “Document on Human Fraternity” in their letter.
In February, a Dominican theologian, who wished to remain anonymous, told LifeSiteNews that the controversial passage “in its obvious sense is false, and in fact heretical.”
“The various religions say incompatible things about who God is and how He wants to be worshipped. Therefore they cannot all be true. Therefore God, who is truth, cannot will all religions,” he stated.
Responding to those who defended the pope’s statement by invoking God’s “permissive will,” the Dominican theologian said:
God permits non-Catholic religions to exist; but permitting something is not a way of willing it, it is a way of not willing to prevent it. Thus God permits many innocent people to be killed, but He does not will it. We would not talk about God’s permissive will for Jews to be gassed, for example.
Life in the barracks of the Swiss Guards is not religiously, culturally, or socially diverse. According to the Roman Curia, membership in the Swiss Guards is limited to a very specific kind of person. Even today, Swiss Guards are chosen from unmarried Swiss Catholic men aged between 19 and 30 who are over 174 cm (5’8.5”) tall.