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Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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Pope praises document about God willing diversity of religions in ‘interreligious dialogue’ speech

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

November 26, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis has once again promoted the Abu Dhabi document “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” at a meeting organized in Rome by an Argentinian group under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Part of the document, which was signed in February by the Pope and a Grand Imam, states that a “pluralism and diversity” of religions is “willed by God.”

On November 18, the Pope addressed the participants of the meeting during a private audience in the Vatican, in the presence of the Argentinian ambassador to the Holy See, Rogelio Pfirter, its promoter, in collaboration with the “Instituto de Diálogo Interreligioso” (Institute of Interreligious Dialogue, IDI) of Buenos Aires of which he was himself the initiator in 2002, as Cardinal-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio.

During a meeting on November 15, attended by Cardinal Miguel Ayuso and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Father Guillermo Marcó of IDI made a “historic announcement” saying that in Argentina a council is being formed between the bishops’ conference, the Jewish center AMIA, the Islamic Center of the Argentinian Republic, the Argentinian Federation of Evangelical Churches, and the Institute of Interreligious Dialogue.

Pope Francis especially congratulated the group for having focused on the Abu Dhabi document during its discussions, without expressing any reservations regarding its erroneous claim that “the pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom.” Instead, he declared himself “pleased to note that this document, which is universal in nature, is also being disseminated in the Americas.” 

“I am convinced that the particularity and sensitivity of different countries and continents can truly contribute to a detailed reading of this document and to a greater and more effective understanding of the message it conveys,” he said.

Among those present were Rabbi Daniel Goldman, Sheikh Omar Abboud and Father Guillermo Marcó, a Catholic priest, as well as the current Argentinian secretary for religious affairs and the president of the Islamic center of Buenos Aires.

Pope Francis was therefore addressing representatives of Judaism, Protestantism, and Islam when he proclaimed: “Our religious traditions are a necessary source of inspiration to foster a culture of encounter. It is fundamental for there to be interreligious cooperation, based on the promotion of sincere and respectful dialogue that goes towards unity without confusion, maintaining identities.”

While some forms of “interreligious dialogue” focus on temporal issues, with the aim of avoiding hostility or bloodshed among believers or promoting natural law together, Pope Francis calls for “unity that transcends the mere political pact.”

He quoted a “very wise man, a very wise European politician” whom he said spoke to him about the Abu Dhabi declaration last February in these terms:

“Let us think of the end of the Second World War, let us think of Yalta; in Yalta a balance was struck in order to break the impasse, a balance that was weak but possible. The cake was shared, and a period of peace was maintained, but these documents, this attitude that goes towards dialogue among the transcendent, creates fraternity, surpasses pacts, surpasses the political; it is political in that it is human, but it surpasses this, it transcends this, it makes it nobler.”

The Yalta Pact divided the world that had emerged from the Second World War into two zones of influence under the winners of the global conflict: that of America on the one hand and that of Soviet Russia on the other. It left hundreds of millions of people in that country under the heel of communist power. The “peace” that was brokered abandoned large parts of Eastern Europe to Stalin’s “influence” and prepared communism’s total domination in East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and the Baltic States…

The invocation of Yalta as a model, albeit an imperfect one, is surprising if not insulting to the memory of the innumerable victims of communist tyranny after the Second World War.

Pope Francis told the group that “the world observes us, believers, to see what our attitude is to the common home and to human rights” – the “common home” is the expression used by environmentalists who accuse humanity of being responsible for “global warming” and ecological catastrophes – and said collaboration among believers and non-believers is necessary to respond effectively to war, hunger, poverty, “the environmental crisis” and that of the family, and so on. “And, above all, the lack of hope.”

Pope Francis’ speech showed he believes there is a new element at play since the signature of the Abu Dhabi document: 

“The intention of the document is to adopt: the culture of dialogue as a way; common collaboration as conduct; mutual knowledge as a method and criterion. From now on, it can be affirmed that religions are not a closed system that cannot be changed, but with their own identity. And this is the key: identity cannot be negotiated, because if you negotiate identity there is no dialogue, there is submission. With their own identity, they are in motion.”

The operative words are: “From now on … ” The Pope said in substance that religions must be prepared to adapt to a situation where they maintain their “identity” while accepting to modify their attitudes in favor of world peace and prosperity.

His later comments explain what can be understood from these words. “It is important to demonstrate that we believers are a factor of peace for human societies, and that we will thus respond to those who unjustly accuse religions of fomenting hatred and being the cause of violence,” he said.

Innumerable documents emanating from the United Nations or from UNESCO do just that: they accuse national traditions and historic religions of being responsible for hate and conflict within humanity. The point of “interreligious dialogue” that rests on the false premise that true and false religions can find a common denominator to which all can subject their particular sets of beliefs, is here to put all religions and spiritualities on a similar plane. What is new – “from now on” – is the formal acknowledgment of the relativistic attitude that says all men can find God through their particular religion while at the same time cooperating with other religions for the really important things: fighting against “global warming,” for instance.

The Pope went on to say “dialogue among religions” is “about changing historical attitudes.”

“A scene from The Song of Roland comes to me as a symbol, when the Christians defeat the Muslims and put them all in line in front of the baptismal font, and one with a sword. And Muslims had to choose between baptism or the sword. That is what we Christians did. It was a mentality that today we cannot accept, nor understand, nor can it work anymore,” Pope Francis said.

The Song of Roland is actually a medieval “chanson de geste” – or epic poem – with its legendary overtones and disregard for historical reality. The scene evoked by Pope Francis never took place: Charlemagne never conquered Zaragoza as the Song of Roland proclaims, nor were Roland and his knights killed by the Moors at Roncesvalles, but by Basque highlanders, as Bernard Antony, president of the French Christian defense league AGRIF recalled on his blog.

Antony commented:

“But in the Song, what wonderful freshness of soul, poetry, beauty, grandeur, expression of faith, honor and courage, what an  exaltation of heroism and of marvelous chivalry!

“All this was certainly added to the historical truth of the fierce conquest of Spain by the Muslim, Berber or Arab hordes of Tariq ibn Ziyad and Abdal Aziz ibn Musa; and then by the dynasty of the three Abd al Rahman, and later by the successive bloody dominations of the Almoravids and Almohads. 

“But no more than he has read or understood or remembers The Song of Roland Song, does Francis weigh, as his greatest predecessors did, what would have happened to Christianity if there had not been the long resistance and Reconquista by the Christians of Spain.”

Antony deplored that instead of choosing a true example of Christian culpability, Pope Francis should have “ignorantly and stupidly attacked one of our cultural roots.” The cultural roots of France but also of England, since the first known written version of the epic Song of Roland is the Oxford Manuscript of 1170.

Instead, in his concluding remarks to the Interreligious Dialogue group from Buenos Aires, Pope Francis said, “Beware of the fundamentalist groups: everyone has his own. In Argentina, too, there is a little fundamentalist corner. And let us try, with fraternity, to go forward. Fundamentalism is a scourge and all religions have some kind of fundamentalist first cousin there, which forms a group.”

Are “fundamentalists” those who believe their own religion to be true, to the exclusion of all others? In the light of the Abu Dhabi document, it would seem so.

The Instituto del Diálogo Interreligioso of Buenos Aires, a civil association, was founded by Cardinal Bergoglio in 2002 as the “crystallization of the interreligious experience that started when, as spokesman for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, he organized the first ever visit of a bonaerense Archbishop to the Islamic Center of the Argentinian Republic,” of which Omar Abboud was then the Cultural Secretary. A similar exchange took place with the Bet-El community where Goldman has been the chief rabbi for 25 years.

Pope Francis has maintained links with the Institute since he was elected to the Chair of Peter.

In March 2018, IDI participated in the “Dawn of Interspirituality Conference” in Costa Rica that included representatives of many religions. The event was organized by the Satyana Institute founded in 1996 to promote training programs in “ecopsychology” and “gender reconciliation” as well as “women’s spiritual mastery.”

During that event, Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk and “pioneer” of interreligious dialogue from Massachusetts (see his obituary here), told the participants: “You are invited to take a step into the unknown, toward a possible future that can only be imagined, when the religions of the world truly meet each other.”

IDI proudly speaks of its presence at that meeting, which was also attended by Fr, Marcó, one of its co-founders. It gave a conference in Moscow on November 11 at the State Pedagogic University.

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