The Pope in the UAE

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

During his visit to the UAE this past week, Pope Francis took part in an interreligious meeting and signed a joint declaration with the Imam of Al-Azhar, the most prominent spiritual leader of Muslims.

During the press conference on the plane from Abu Dhabi to Rome, the Holy Father requested, as he replied to a question, that all Christians read the declaration. I invite you to do that.

In the meantime, I share with you a fragment of his allocution at the Mosque Sheikh Zayed, which is in continuity and harmony with the Apostolic Exhortation of Benedict XVI from which I published a fragment last week.

“We are here to desire peace, to promote peace, to be instruments of peace…

The point of departure is the recognition that God is at the origin of the one human family. He who is the Creator of all things and of all persons wants us to live as brothers and sisters… This tells us that all persons have equal dignity and that no one can be a master or slave of others.

We cannot honor the Creator without cherishing the sacredness of every person and of every human life: each person is equally precious in the eyes of God, who does not look upon the human family with a preferential gaze that excludes, but with a benevolent gaze that includes. Thus, to recognize the same rights for every human being is to glorify the name of God on earth. In the name of God the Creator, therefore, every form of violence must be condemned without hesitation, because we gravely profane God’s name when we use it to justify hatred and violence against a brother or sister. No violence can be justified in the name of religion.

The enemy of fraternity is an individualism which translates into the desire to affirm oneself and one’s own group above others. This danger threatens all aspects of life, even the highest innate prerogative of man, that is, the openness to the transcendent and to religious piety. True religious piety consists in loving God with all one’s heart and one’s neighbor as oneself. Religious behavior, therefore, needs continually to be purified from the recurrent temptation to judge others as enemies and adversaries. Each belief system is called to overcome the divide between friends and enemies, in order to take up the perspective of heaven, which embraces persons without privilege or discrimination…

If we believe in the existence of the human family, it follows that it must, as such, be looked after. As in every family, this happens above all through a daily and effective dialogue. This presupposes having one’s own identity, not to be foregone to please the other person. But at the same time it demands the courage of otherness, which involves the full recognition of the other and his or her freedom, and the consequent commitment to exert myself so that the other person’s fundamental rights are always affirmed, everywhere and by everyone. Without freedom we are no longer children of the human family, but slaves…

The courage of otherness is the heart of dialogue, which is based on sincerity of intentions. Dialogue is indeed compromised by pretense, which increases distance and suspicion: we cannot proclaim fraternity and then act in the opposite way. According to a modern author, “The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others”.

In all this, prayer is essential: while sincerely intended prayer incarnates the courage of otherness in regard to God, it also purifies the heart from turning in on itself. Prayer of the heart restores fraternity…

If the enemy of fraternity is the individualism referred to above, I want to point to indifference as an obstacle to development, an indifference which ends up converting flourishing realities into desert lands. In fact, a purely utilitarian development cannot provide real and lasting progress. Only an integral and cohesive development provides a future worthy of the human person. Indifference prevents us from seeing the human community beyond its earnings and our brothers and sisters beyond the work they do. Indifference, in fact, does not look to the future; it does not care about the future of creation, it does not care about the dignity of the stranger and the future of children…

Human fraternity requires of us, as representatives of the world’s religions, the duty to reject every nuance of approval from the word “war”. Let us return it to its miserable crudeness. Its fateful consequences are before our eyes. I am thinking in particular of Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya. Together, as brothers and sisters in the one human family willed by God, let us commit ourselves against the logic of armed power, against the monetization of relations, the arming of borders, the raising of walls, the gagging of the poor; let us oppose all this with the sweet power of prayer and daily commitment to dialogue.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid