March 22, 2019

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Dialogue with others leads to peace, say interreligious leaders

Fr. Rick GintherSince the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), popes have met with the heads of Christian denominations and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. They have met with Buddhist Hindu, and Sikh leaders and Jewish rabbis, both in Rome and abroad.

Pope Francis has twice met with a major leader of Islam: Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmad el-Tayeb.

Their initial meeting took place in 2017, when the two met to improve relations between Catholics and Muslims.

They met a second time on Feb. 3-5 in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates’ capital. The occasion was a conference on interreligious relations. Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian faith leaders were present as well.

Fittingly, this papal-imam meeting occurred during the 800th anniversary year of the meeting during the fifth crusade of St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Kamil.

The grand imam called upon all Muslims in the Middle East to “embrace” local Christian communities.

“Continue to embrace your brothers, the Christian citizens everywhere, for they are our partners in our nation,” he said. He went on, addressing Christians: “You are part of this nation. You are citizens, you are not a minority. You are citizens with full rights and responsibilities.”

The grand imam also called on Muslims in the west to integrate in their host nations and respect local laws.

These words echo the thinking in “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” signed jointly by Pope Francis and the grand imam on Feb. 4. For the full text, go to

Here are some excerpts from the document:

“Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved. Through faith in God, who has created the universe, creatures and all human beings (equal on account of his mercy), believers are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and the entire universe and supporting all persons, especially the poorest and those most in need” (from the introduction).

Following this powerful opening paragraph, the document goes on to make a series of statements the begin with “In the name of God,” and then address various topics of importance: innocent human life, the poor, orphans, human fraternity, freedom, justice and mercy, etc.

The document addresses the present reality in our world (successes, solidarity in suffering, disasters and calamities). But it pointedly notes that the current human crises stem from a numbed human conscience, diminishment of religious values, individualism and materialist philosophies that deify the human person and replace the higher principles rooted in God.

The most telling paragraph declares “… that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood. … God, the Almighty, has no need to be defended by anyone and does not want his name to be used to terrorize people.”

The document emphasizes the importance of the role of religions in the construction of world peace, especially as set out in previous international documents.

Both the imam and Pope Francis urged that the document “ … become the object of research and reflection in all schools, universities and institutes of formation.”

Perhaps your reading of the full text will inspire some open dialogue and study as these two religious leaders urge.

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs. He is pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Indianapolis.)

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