Pope Francis calls for flexibility, patience as he opens talks on church teaching

21 02 2014
Pope Francis on Thursday with Cardinal Santos Abril of Spain, left, and Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the vicar general of Rome. Photo by Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters.

Pope Francis on Thursday with Cardinal Santos Abril of Spain, left, and Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the vicar general of Rome. Photo by Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters.

By David Gibson / Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Thursday (Feb. 20) opened a major two-day meeting on the church’s approach to the complexities of modern family life, telling the world’s Catholic cardinals that the church needs a “pastoral” approach that is “intelligent, courageous and full of love” and not focused on abstract arguments.

In brief introductory remarks released by the Vatican, Francis pushed the closed-door summit of about 150 cardinals to “deepen the theology of the family and discern the pastoral practices which our present situation requires.”

He asked that they do so “thoughtfully” and by keeping the focus on “the beauty of family and marriage” while at the same time showing that the church is ready to help spouses “amid so many difficulties.” Francis added the phrase “intelligent, courageous and full of love” extemporaneously.

Francis summoned the cardinals to Rome for a weekend of ceremonies at which the pope will appoint his first batch of 19 “princes of the church,” as cardinals are often called.

But he asked them to arrive early so that they could spend time discussing one of Francis’ signature themes: shifting the church’s approach on controversial topics like divorce and remarriage, cohabitation, gay marriage and contraception.

Those issues will also be the focus of two larger and longer meetings of bishops at the Vatican this fall and in 2015.

“The pope has opened a dialogue, he’s not decided anything yet and now he’ll let us discuss,” Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German theologian who is a favorite of Francis, told Reuters on Thursday.

Kasper said the talks were not about changing doctrine or watering down traditional marriage — “that’s not possible,” he said. But “it’s a question of how to apply (church teaching to) the concrete, difficult, complex situation.”

Francis tapped Kasper to open the meetings with an address that would set the stage for the talks. Kasper — a onetime sparring partner of another German cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Benedict XVI — delivered a two-hour talk that centered on marriage and took up most of the morning’s session.

Kasper has pushed for relaxing the ban against Communion for Catholics who have divorced and remarried without an annulment; as a bishop in Germany in the 1990s, he tried to institute a policy that would allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion in certain circumstances. The plan was rejected by the Vatican’s doctrinal office, then headed by Ratzinger.

In his talk on Thursday, Kasper did not offer any specific proposals, but repeatedly stressed the importance of pastoral flexibility and realism in dealing with people in challenging or unusual family situations.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, said Kasper’s talk would remain private but he provided reporters with an overview of the address.

“Our efforts are not about restating that the doctrine of the church is thus and so,” Lombardi said in summarizing Kasper’s remarks. “Our efforts are about returning to the beginning of the doctrine itself, which is the gospel.”

Lombardi described Kasper’s talk as “in great harmony” with Francis’ views, stressing the importance of accompanying people in difficult circumstances and the need for patience in helping them.

Even before he was elected pope last March, Francis — then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires — blasted priests who “hijacked” the sacraments and refused to baptize the children of unwed mothers. He called such clerics “hypocrites” who “drive God’s people away from salvation.”

After his election, Francis continued to make the point, telling a pregnant single woman that he would baptize her baby if she couldn’t find another priest to do it, and baptizing — in the storied Sistine Chapel — the baby of a couple who were married civilly but not in the church.

In other venues Francis has also repeatedly stressed the priority of preaching God’s mercy rather than focusing on the details of doctrine and church rules. That, in turn, has led some to wonder if he was signaling a possible change in some teachings.

But Vatican insiders say the pope prefers to try to change the church’s approach rather than start a civil war over doctrine that would distract from the church’s mission to the poor and marginalized.

That doesn’t mean the shift toward mercy and away from finger-wagging is sitting well with all church leaders. Disagreements were expected as each of the cardinals gets a chance to weigh in with their own views.

“Everybody will have a chance to yell about something,” one cardinal quipped after the first day’s sessions.

Related post: Vatican harshly criticized by United Nations Human Rights Committee





Pope Francis welcomes American Jewish Committee members to the Vatican, urges a more ‘just and fraternal world’

14 02 2014
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets with members of the American Jewish Committee, at the Vatican, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. | ASSOCIATED PRESS

In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets with members of the American Jewish Committee, at the Vatican, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pope Francis met with members of the American Jewish Committee at the Vatican on Thursday, reports Vatican Radio. He invited Jews and Christians to “cooperate in constructing a more just and fraternal world.” He concluded his remarks with a message of peace, “Shalom!”

Pope Francis has made it a point of his papacy to reach out to the Jewish community, specifically mentioning the importance of interfaith outreach in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.

Vatican Radio provided the full text of his address, which said:

Dear friends,
I welcome you here today. Your organization, which on various occasions has met with my venerable Predecessors, maintains good relations with the Holy See and with many representatives of the Catholic world. I am very grateful to you for the distinguished contribution you have made to dialogue and fraternity between Jews and Catholics, and I encourage you to continue on this path.

Next year we will commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of the Second Vatican Council Nostra Aetate, which today constitutes for the Church the sure point of reference for relations with our “elder brothers”. From this document, our reflection on the spiritual patrimony which unites us and which is the foundation of our dialogue has developed with renewed vigour. This foundation is theological, and not simply an expression of our desire for reciprocal respect and esteem. Therefore, it is important that our dialogue be always profoundly marked by the awareness of our relationship with God.

In addition to dialogue, it is also important to find ways in which Jews and Christians can cooperate in constructing a more just and fraternal world. In this regard, I call to mind in a particular way our common efforts to serve the poor, the marginalized and those who suffer. Our commitment to this service is anchored in the protection of the poor, widows, orphans, and foreigners as shown in Sacred Scripture (cf. Ex 20:20-22). It is a God given duty, one which reflects his holy will and his justice; it is a true religious obligation.

Finally, in order that our efforts may not be fruitless, it is important that we dedicate ourselves to transmitting to new generations the heritage of our mutual knowledge, esteem and friendship which has, thanks to the commitment of associations like yours, grown over these years. It is my hope therefore that the study of relations with Judaism may continue to flourish in seminaries and in centres of formation for lay Catholics, as I am similarly hopeful that a desire for an understanding of Christianity may grow among young Rabbis and the Jewish community.

Dear friends, in a few months I will have the joy of visiting Jerusalem, where – as the Psalm says – we are all born (cf. Ps 87:5) and where all peoples will one day meet (cf. Is 25:6-10). Accompany me with your prayers, so that this pilgrimage may bring forth the fruits of communion, hope and peace. Shalom!

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Vatican harshly criticized by United Nations Human Rights Committee

9 02 2014

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — The Vatican “systematically” adopted policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades, a UN human rights committee said Wednesday, urging the Holy See to open its files on pedophiles and bishops who concealed their crimes.

In a devastating report hailed by abuse victims, the UN committee severely criticized the Holy See for its attitudes toward homosexuality, contraception and abortion and said it should change its own canon law to ensure children’s rights and their access to health care are guaranteed.

The Vatican promptly objected and its UN ambassador accused the committee of having betrayed the international body’s own objectives by allowing itself to be swayed by pro-gay ideologues. He said it appeared the committee simply hadn’t listened when the Holy See outlined all the measures it has taken to protect children.

The report, which took the Vatican by surprise in its harsh tone, puts renewed pressure on Pope Francis to move decisively on the abuse front and make good on pledges to create a Vatican commission to study sex abuse and recommend best practices to fight it. The commission was announced in December, but few details have been released since then.

The committee issued its recommendations after subjecting the Holy See to a daylong interrogation last month on its implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the key UN treaty on child protection, which the Holy See ratified in 1990.

Critically, the committee rejected the Vatican’s longstanding argument that it doesn’t control bishops or their abusive priests, saying the Holy See was responsible for implementing the treaty not just in the Vatican City State but around the world “as the supreme power of the Catholic Church through individuals and institutions placed under its authority.”

‘Code of silence’

In its report, the committee blasted the “code of silence” that has long been used to keep victims quiet, saying the Holy See had “systematically placed preservation of the reputation of the church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims.” It called on the Holy See to provide compensation to victims and hold accountable not just the abusers, but also those who covered up their crimes.

Kirsten Sandberg, chairperson of the UN human rights committee on the rights of the child, talks during a news conference Wednesday where the UN human rights committee denounced the Vatican. (Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press)

Kirsten Sandberg, chairperson of the UN human rights committee on the rights of the child, talks during a news conference Wednesday where the UN human rights committee denounced the Vatican. (Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press)

“The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by, and the impunity of, the perpetrators,” the report said.

It called for Francis’ nascent abuse commission to conduct an independent investigation of all cases of priestly abuse and the way the Catholic hierarchy has responded over time, and urged the Holy See to establish clear rules for the mandatory reporting of abuse to police and to support laws that allow victims to report crimes even after the statute of limitations has expired.

No Catholic bishop has ever been sanctioned by the Vatican for sheltering an abusive priest, and only in 2010 did the Holy See direct bishops to report abusers to police where law enforcement requires it. Vatican officials have acknowledged that bishop accountability remains a major problem and have suggested that under Francis, things might begin to change.

Non-binding recommendations

The committee’s recommendations are non-binding and there is no enforcement mechanism. Instead, the UN asked the Vatican to implement the recommendations and report back by 2017. The Vatican was 14 years late submitting its most recent report.

The committee is made up of independent experts, not other UN member states — the case on the larger and often politicized UN Human Rights Council, which also sits in Geneva. The Committee on the Rights of the Child is one of 10 UN bodies that monitor implementation of the core UN human rights treaties, and its 18 members include academics, sociologists and child development specialists from around the globe.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi (L), ambassador of Vatican at U.N.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi (pictured left), ambassador of Vatican at U.N.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, who headed the Vatican delegation at the Jan. 16 session in Geneva, was clearly taken aback by the scathing tone of the report.

“It seems as if the document was prepared before the committee meeting, where the Vatican gave detailed responses on various points that weren’t reported in this concluding document or seem to not have been taken into consideration,” he told Vatican Radio.

While most attention has focused on child sex abuse, the committee’s recommendations extended far beyond, into issues about discrimination against children and their rights to adequate health care, matters that touch on core church teaching about life and sexual morals.

Mandatory sexual education urged

The committee, for example, urged the Vatican to amend its canon law to identify circumstances where access to abortion can be permitted for children, such as to save the life of a young mother. It urged the Holy See to ensure that sex education, including access to information about contraception and preventing HIV, is mandatory in Catholic schools. It called for the Holy See to use its moral authority to condemn discrimination against homosexual children, or children raised by same-sex couples.

Church teaching holds that life begins at conception. The Vatican, which therefore opposes abortion and artificial contraception, calls for respect for gays, but considers homosexual acts to be “intrinsically disordered.” The Vatican has a history of diplomatic confrontation with the United Nations over such issues.

Tomasi said the call to reconsider abortion ran against the UN treaty’s own objectives to protect the life of children before and after birth, and he accused pro-gay rights and gay marriage advocacy groups of having “reinforced an ideological line” with the committee.

Benyam Mezmur, a committee member and Ethiopian academic on children’s legal rights, rejected any such criticism and said the committee report was balanced and was aimed purely at ensuring the treaty was implemented.

“The Committee on the Rights of the Child is not in the business of saying ‘Well said.’ We are in the business of saying ‘Well done.’ We want to see concrete measures,” he said in a phone interview from Geneva.

Austen Ivereigh, coordinator of Catholic Voices, a church advocacy group, said the report was a “shocking display of ignorance and high-handedness.”

He said it failed to acknowledge the progress that has been made in recent years and that the Catholic Church in many places is now considered a leader in safeguarding children. And he noted that the committee seemed unable to grasp the distinction between the responsibilities and jurisdiction of the Holy See, and local churches on the ground.

“It takes no account of the particularities of the Holy See, treating it as if it were the HQ of a multinational corporation,” he said in an email.

But victims groups hailed the report as a wake-up call to secular law enforcement officials to investigate abuse and any cover-ups, and prosecute church officials who are still protecting predator priests.

“This report gives hope to the hundreds of thousands of deeply wounded and still suffering clergy sex abuse victims across the world,” said Barbara Blaine, president of the main U.S. victim’s group SNAP. “Now it’s up to secular officials to follow the U.N.’s lead and step in to safeguard the vulnerable because Catholic officials are either incapable or unwilling to do so.”

For the full text of the UN Human Rights Committee report on Vatican, click here.





Catholic-Jewish forum in Madrid focuses on religious freedom and combating racism

18 10 2013

roucojudi

The International Liason Committee, the official joint forum of the Vatican and the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), met for the 22nd time since it was set up 40 years ago to discuss ways of combating racism and anti-Semitism, and championing religious freedom. Over 60 participants, including delegates and observers from both sides, spent four days in intense discussions exploring issues such as the dismaying rise in religious intolerance, the threat of extremism and violence, and the need to educate towards peaceful co-existence amongst all peoples.

Co-chaired by Kurt Cardinal Koch, the president of the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews, and IJCIC Chair Betty Ehrenberg – who also serves as executive director of the WJC North America – the group exchanged views and looked for ways to jointly work together to face the current challenges to religion and to faith groups. Citing the dedication of Pope Francis to work to increase mutual respect and tolerance, Koch quoted the pontiff’s declarations that a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite.

Ehrenberg emphasized the need for religious leaders to work together to defense religious freedoms and practices, in view of recent attempts to curtail religious slaughter and male circumcision.

Special emphasis was put on the need for education of both religious groups as to the history and knowledge about Christianity and Judaism in order to dispel myths and stereotypes, with particular attention to the spread of the declaration Nostra Aetate to many areas of the world where the Vatican document that advanced dialogue and peaceful relations between Catholics and Jews is still not sufficiently well known.

The groups expressed much satisfaction with the meeting and looks forward with anticipation to continuing to work closely together on these important issues of common concern.

Source: World Jewish Congress





VATICAN: The Francis Revolution is underway, not everyone is pleased

8 08 2013
People greet the Pope as he visits the Varginha slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 25, 2013. Photo by Associated Press.

People greet the Pope as he visits the Varginha slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 25, 2013. Photo by Associated Press.

VATICAN CITY — The Francis Revolution is underway. Not everyone is pleased.

Four months into his papacy, Francis has called on young Catholics in the trenches to take up spiritual arms to shake up a dusty, doctrinaire church that is losing faithful and relevance. He has said women must have a greater role – not as priests, but a place in the church that recognizes that Mary is more important than any of the apostles. And he has turned the Vatican upside down, quite possibly knocking the wind out of a poisonously homophobic culture by merely uttering the word “gay” and saying: so what?

In between, he has charmed millions of faithful and the mainstream news media, drawing the second-largest crowd ever to a papal Mass. That should provide some insurance as he goes about doing what he was elected to do: reform not just the dysfunctional Vatican bureaucracy but the church itself, using his own persona and personal history as a model.

“He is restoring credibility to Catholicism,” said church historian Alberto Melloni.

Such enthusiasm isn’t shared across the board.

Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, had coddled traditionalist Catholics attached to the old Latin Mass and opposed to the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council. That group greeted Francis’ election with concern – and now is watching its worst fears come true. Francis has spoken out both publicly and privately against such “restoratist groups,” which he accuses of being navel-gazing retrogrades out of touch with the evangelizing mission of the church in the 21st century.

His recent decision to forbid priests of a religious order from celebrating the old Latin Mass without explicit authorization seemed to be abrogating one of the big initiatives of Benedict’s papacy, a 2007 decree allowing broader use of the pre-Vatican II Latin liturgy for all who want it. The Vatican denied he was contradicting Benedict, but these traditional Catholics see in Francis’ words and deeds a threat. They are in something of a retreat.

“Be smart. There will be time in the future for people to sort what Vatican II means and what it doesn’t mean,” the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf warned his traditionalist readers in a recent blog post. “But mark my words: If you gripe about Vatican II right now, in this present environment, you could lose what you have attained.”

Even more mainstream conservative Catholics aren’t thrilled with Francis.

In a recent interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said right-wing Catholics “generally have not been really happy” with Francis.

To be sure, Francis has not changed anything about church teaching. Nothing he has said or done is contrary to doctrine; everything he has said and done champions the Christian concepts of loving the sinner but not the sin and having a church that is compassionate, welcoming and merciful.

But tone and priorities can themselves constitute change, especially when considering issues that aren’t being emphasized, such as church doctrine on abortion, gay marriage and other issues frequently referenced by Benedict and Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, used the word “gay” for perhaps the first time in its 150-year history on Wednesday, in an article marveling at the change Francis has brought.

“In just a few words, the novelty has been expressed clearly and without threatening the church’s tradition,” the newspaper said about Francis’ comments on gays and women. “You can change everything without changing the basic rules, those on which Catholic tradition are based.”

The biggest headline came in Francis’ inflight news conference on the way home from Brazil this week, when he was asked about a trusted monsignor who reportedly once had a gay lover.

“Who am I to judge?” he asked, when it comes to the sexual orientation of priests, as long as they are searching for God and have good will.

Under normal circumstances, given the sexual morality at play in the Catholic Church, outing someone as actively gay is a death knell for career advancement. Vatican officials considering high-profile appointments often weigh whether someone is “ricattabile” – blackmailable.

But Francis said he investigated the allegations himself and found nothing to back them up. And that regardless, if someone is gay and repents, God not only forgives but forgets. Francis said everyone else should too. By calling out the blackmail for what it is, Francis may well have clipped the wings of an ugly but common practice at the Vatican.

Francis also made headlines with his call for the church to develop a new theology of women’s role, saying it’s not enough to have altar girls or a woman heading a Vatican department given the critical role that women have in helping the church grow.

While those comments topped the news from the 82-minute news conference, he revealed plenty of other insights that reinforce the idea that a very different papacy is underway.

_Annulments: He said the church’s judicial system of annulling marriages must be “looked at again” because church tribunals simply aren’t up to the task. That could be welcome news to many Catholics who often have to wait years for an annulment, the process by which the church determines that a marriage effectively never took place.

_Divorce and remarriage: He suggested an opening in church teaching which forbids a divorced and remarried Catholic from taking communion unless they get an annulment, saying: “This is a time for mercy.”

_Church governance: He said his decision to appoint eight cardinals to advise him was based on explicit requests from cardinals at the conclave that elected him who wanted “outsiders” – not Vatican officials – governing the church. Francis obliged, essentially creating a parallel government for the church alongside the Vatican bureaucracy: a pope and a cabinet of cardinals representing the church in each of the continents.

And then there was Rio.

From the moment he touched down, it was clear change was afoot. No armored popemobile, just a simple Fiat sedan – one that got swarmed by adoring fans when it got lost and stuck in traffic. Rather than recoil in fear, Francis rolled down his window. Given that popes until recently were carried around on a chair to keep them above the fray, that gesture alone was revolutionary.

He told 35,000 pilgrims from his native Argentina to make a “mess” in their dioceses, shake things up and go out into the streets to spread their faith, even at the expense of confrontation with their bishops. He led by example, diving into the crowds in one of Rio’s most violent slums.

“Either you do the trip as it needs to be done, or you don’t do it at all,” he told Brazil’s TV Globo. He said he simply couldn’t have visited Rio “closed up in a glass box.”

Pope Francis blesses a child as he rides on the popemobile to celebrate mass in Rio de Janeiro Sunday July 28, 2013. Hundreds of thousands of young people slept under chilly skies in the white sand of Copacabana awaiting Pope Francis’ final Mass for World Youth Day.(AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

Pope Francis blesses a child as he rides on the popemobile to celebrate mass in Rio de Janeiro Sunday July 28, 2013. Hundreds of thousands of young people slept under chilly skies in the white sand of Copacabana awaiting Pope Francis’ final Mass for World Youth Day.(AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

Pope Francis (C) salutes the crowd as he arrives for his general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on May 22, 2013. AFP PHOTO by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images.

Pope Francis (C) salutes the crowd as he arrives for his general audience in St Peter’s square at the Vatican on May 22, 2013. AFP PHOTO by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images.

Pope Francis (C) waves to faithfuls gathered in St Peter's square at the Vatican upon his arrival on June 12, 2013 for his weekly general audience. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images.

Pope Francis (C) waves to faithfuls gathered in St Peter’s square at the Vatican upon his arrival on June 12, 2013 for his weekly general audience. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images.

Pope Francis welcomes a group of children who traveled on a special train from Milan and arrived at the St. Peter station at the Vatican, Sunday, June 23, 2013, to meet with the Pope. During the traditional Angelus blessing, one of the most cherished traditions of the Catholic Church, the pope spoke off the cuff, telling young people in the square to not be afraid of "going against the current." Photo by Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press.

Pope Francis welcomes a group of children who traveled on a special train from Milan and arrived at the St. Peter station at the Vatican, Sunday, June 23, 2013, to meet with the Pope. During the traditional Angelus blessing, one of the most cherished traditions of the Catholic Church, the pope spoke off the cuff, telling young people in the square to not be afraid of “going against the current.” Photo by Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press.

Pope Francis blesses a child as he leaves in his papamobile after the Holy mass with the ecclesial movements for Pentecost Sunday on May 19, 2013 at St peter's square at the Vatican. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images.

Pope Francis blesses a child as he leaves in his papamobile after the Holy mass with the ecclesial movements for Pentecost Sunday on May 19, 2013 at St peter’s square at the Vatican. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images.

In this photo made available by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis welcomes a group of children who traveled on a special train from Milan and arrived at the St. Peter station at the Vatican, Sunday, June 23, 2013, to meet with the Pope. During the traditional Angelus blessing, one of the most cherished traditions of the Catholic Church, the pope spoke off the cuff, telling young people in the square to not be afraid of "going against the current." Photo by Associated Press/L'Osservatore Romano.

In this photo made available by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis welcomes a group of children who traveled on a special train from Milan and arrived at the St. Peter station at the Vatican, Sunday, June 23, 2013, to meet with the Pope. During the traditional Angelus blessing, one of the most cherished traditions of the Catholic Church, the pope spoke off the cuff, telling young people in the square to not be afraid of “going against the current.” Photo by Associated Press/L’Osservatore Romano.





Pope Francis sets a good interfaith example

6 08 2013
Pope Francis salutes as he arrives at the Chiesa Del Gesu' in Rome on July 31, 2013. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis salutes as he arrives at the Chiesa Del Gesu’ in Rome on July 31, 2013. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

By Yasmine Hafiz/Huffington Post

Pope Francis personally reached out to Muslims around the world with Id al-Fitr greetings for the holiday that concludes the holy month of Ramadan. While the message has been traditional since 1967, usually the greetings are sent by the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Pope Francis explained that he wanted to personally write this year’s message as a mark of his “esteem and friendship” for all Muslims, citing the example of his namesake Saint Francis, who “loved every human being deeply.”

Addressed “To Muslims throughout the World,” the message is an important call to action for peace and tolerance as he proposed reflection on the theme, “Promoting Mutual Respect through Education.” As sectarian and religious tensions continue worldwide, the pope emphasized the importance of respect and need to educate Muslim and Christian youth in a tolerant and loving manner. He said, “We all know that mutual respect is fundamental in any human relationship, especially among people who profess religious belief. In this way, sincere and lasting friendship can grow.”

The pope also offered good wishes to Muslims at the beginning of Ramadan during a visit to the island of Lampedusa in Italy on July 8, saying in a speech, “I also think with affection of those Muslim immigrants who this evening begin the fast of Ramadan, which I trust will bear abundant spiritual fruit. The church is at your side as you seek a more dignified life for yourselves and your families.”

His sincere and friendly greetings will hopefully be warmly received by leaders of the Muslim community, many of whom felt uneasy with the last pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, after he quoted an anti-Islamic remark in his 2006 Regensburg lecture and sparked worldwide outrage.

“In issuing a personal, heartfelt and meaningful message to Muslims around the world at the end of Ramadan, we see a genuine effort on behalf of Pope Francis to send a message of good will and compassion. Focusing on youth and ‘mutual respect through education,’ Pope Francis underscores the critical components of cohesiveness -– that people of all faiths should respect the other and learn about ‘the other,'” said Farah Pandith, the U.S. Department of State’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities. “His important message of mutual respect will no doubt have a powerful impact on how the next generation of Muslim and Christian youth view and interact with each other.”

Francis is being called “the People’s Pope” for his outreach to many marginalized groups.

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Vatican spokesman says pope is wrong, atheists still going to hell

28 05 2013

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The Vatican has clarified that atheists will still go to hell if they reject God, after Pope Francis broke with tradition to deliver a homily stating non-believers who do good will be redeemed through Jesus.

The Pope’s words made headlines around the world after he gave an unprepared speech in which he emphasised the importance of “doing good” as a principle which unites all humanity.

After international media attention, the Vatican attempted clarify how exactly one gets in to heaven, with Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, saying that people who know about the Catholic church “cannot be saved” if they “refuse to enter her or remain in her.”

That is, atheists are still going to hell.

It’s sort of problematic to contradict someone who’s supposed to be the infallible voice of your religion, but that’s apparently what’s happened here.








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