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We must keep alive the thirst for the Absolute, Pope tells religious leaders

By on Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Bartholomew I, right, at the Pope's inauguration Mass (Mazur/

Bartholomew I, right, at the Pope's inauguration Mass (Mazur/

For the good of all people, the care of the poor and the future of the earth, religions must cooperate in reminding modern men and women that God exists and has a plan for their lives and their behaviour, Pope Francis has said.

“The Catholic Church knows the importance of promoting friendship and respect among men and women of different religious traditions,” he said, repeating the entire phrase twice for emphasis today during a meeting with the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and Jain delegations that had come to the Vatican for his inauguration.

The Catholic Church, he said, “is equally aware of the responsibility that all have for this world, for creation – which we must love and protect – and we can do much good for those who are poor, weak and suffering, to favour justice, to promote reconciliation, to build peace.”

“But more than anything,” he said, “we must keep alive in the world the thirst for the Absolute. We must never allow a one-dimensional vision of the human person to prevail – a vision that reduces the person to what he produces and consumes.

“This is one of the most dangerous, insidious things of our age,” Pope Francis told his guests from other Christian churches and other religions.

Too much violence, he said, has resulted from “the attempt to eliminate God or the divine” from people’s personal and social lives.

To be open to the transcendent, to seek God, is part of being fully human, and continues to exist in the human heart, he said.

The Pope told the religious leaders that he and they have an obligation to be close to people who do not belong to a faith community, but who are “searching for the truth, goodness and beauty”. Such people, he said, “are our precious allies in the commitment to defending human dignity in building peaceful coexistence among peoples and in safeguarding creation”.

Before meeting the entire group, the Pope held private meetings with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the “first among equals” of Orthodox bishops and a frequent visitor during Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy, and Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of ecumenical relations for the Russian Orthodox Church.

At the beginning of the audience with all of the religious leaders, Patriarch Bartholomew addressed the Pope, congratulating him on his election and emphasising the importance of the Catholic Church’s involvement in the search for Christian unity as a sign of the credibility of the Gospel message and a way of strengthening the good Christians can do in the world.

“We have an obligation to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, cure the sick and, more in general, to care for those in need,” the Patriarch said, acknowledging how much Pope Francis did that as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

He said Pope Francis’s choice of a simple papal style was a sign of his focus “on the essential, which fills with joy the hearts” of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, because it demonstrates the priority of “justice and mercy” in Christian teaching.

In his talk to the group, Pope Francis spoke explicitly about the Second Vatican Council for the first time in a public speech, and he quoted the council’s description of Muslims as people who “adore the one, merciful God”.

Pope Francis sat in a simple chair, not a throne, as he met the delegates in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace. Sitting closest to him on one side was Patriarch Bartholomew and on the other was Rabbi Riccardo di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome.

  • Guest

    Some of these paragraphs could have been written by Pope Emeritus Benedict.

  • Nigell

    There seems to be a media led story to depict a hermeneutic of discontinuity between Pope Francis and Pope Benedict. I don’t imagine Benedict would have sat on a ‘throne’ at such a meeting.

  • andHarry

    ‘ and he quoted the council’s description of Muslims as people who “adore the one, merciful God”.’

    Was he in agreement with this Vatican II description of the Muslim God?

  • AlanP

    I would hope so. Muslims worship the same God as we do, though obviously their theology is different. Arab Christians call God “Allah”.

  • NDaniels

    Catholics, in worshipping The One True God, worship The Communion of Perfect Love that Is The Blessed Trinity.

  • PaulF

    I have high hopes of Pope Francis, and I continue to pray for him and for our church, but I have to admit that this comes as a dig in the stomach, the indication from such high authority that you can worship the true God while rejecting his Christ. The root cause of our ills remains until we return to teaching what he teaches in his word.
    ‘Jerusalem … How long before you are made clean?’ (Jeremiah 13:27)

  • Jon Brownridge

    Presumably you mean by Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. The Christ, however, is a much wider concept than Jesus as St. Paul frequently demonstrates in his epistles. Muslims do not see Jesus as divine but they accept the concept of a Christ figure – a metaphorical model of perfection to which each one of us must strive to imitate.

  • Roman Catholic

    There is only one Christ and that is Jesus of Nazareth. This is the Jesus who sacrificed his life on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead so that we can choose to save our souls. Any rejection of this God given truth, is pure and utter heresy. Also there is only one God and that is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Denial of this God given truth is also heresy.

  • Roman Catholic

    They do not worship the same God Catholics worship. We worship God the Father. God the son and God the Holy Ghost.

  • Roman Catholic

    You are right to pray for him. The rosary is recommended.

    Any form of rejection of Christ our Saviour is a grievous offence against the Triune God and an insult directed towards our Blessed Lord.

  • Julian Lord

    Apostasy or faithlessness, actually — but your point still stands, regardless of vocabulary.

  • AlanP

    Of course we do, but it’s still one God, not 3. Muslims are closer to Jews in that respect. Islam arose among (nominally) Christian tribes who found the concept of the Trinity too difficult.

  • Julian Lord

    No, Islamic theology utterly rejects the goodness of material reality — of Creation.

  • Zzxz

    I doubt it was actually a throne. I’ve seen media captions where he is sitting on a wooden chair with armrests and they have called it a ‘throne’.

  • Roman Catholic

    The denial of a doctrine is a heretical action. The teaching that Jesus the Christ is divine and the Son of God is a doctrine of the church. Apostasy and faithfulness are the abandonment or disaffiliation of a religion for whatever reason..

    Lets not nit pick, Jabba, as you correctly say the point stands. However, it was a point and reply made in defense of a dangerous argument about who Christ actually is.

    Islam is considered, by the Church, to be a Christian heresy despite the fact its founder was never a Christian.

  • Roman Catholic

    God is one and three. It is a mystery that we all find impossible to understand; note St.Augustine.We accept the teaching of Christ with a simple faith.

    Do you honestly believe that God the Father is pleased with a false religion that denies the Divinity, crucifixion, death and resurrection of his only beloved Son? To say He is pleased, would be simply more modernist nonsense.

    As for the Jews, Jesus taught them that He “honours His Father” and later on in this Gospel. He states,

    ” Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

    43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot ahear my word.

    44 Ye are of your father the adevil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

    45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.

    46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?

    47 He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

    48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?

    49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.

    50 And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

    51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.

    52 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never ataste of death.

    53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?

    54 Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:

    55 Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.

    56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it,and was glad.

    57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

    58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before

    Abraham was, I am.

    59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by”.

  • Julian Lord

    Not really nitpicking ; and I reiterate, your point still stands :-)

    The denial of a doctrine is a heretical action

    There’s a qualitative distinction depending on which sorts of doctrines are denied ; and by whom.

    A non-Christian can be neither an apostate nor a heretic ; an apostate is no longer a Christian ; a heretic remains a christian (of some sort).

    The remedy for unbelief is conversion and baptism ; the remedy for apostasy is re-conversion and re-admittance into the Church ; the remedy for heresy is confession, penitence, honest repentance, and denunciation of one’s former heresies (and possibly the sacrament of Confirmation).

  • Kevin Beach

    I think they found a false description of the Trinity difficult to bear. At the time of Mohammed, there was a Christian sect in Arabia who taught that the Trinity consisted of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Being outside both the Western and the Eastern Empires, there had been no opportunity of correction before those who became Muslims turned against it.

  • James M

    ““But more than anything,” he said, “we must keep alive in the world the thirst for the Absolute.”

    ## Christian faith is in Christ – not in some vague unspecified sub-Christian “Absolute” :(

    “Pope Francis sat in a simple chair, not a throne, as he met the delegates in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.”

    ## Bad sign-language, imprudent humility; like that of JP2 with all those “apologies”. The Pope is the Divinely-appointed teacher of (ultimately) all mankind, not one “religious leader” among many. The only valid religion is that of Christ – Judaism has been fulfilled, so is superceded; and the others are wrong; either by being schisms from the Church, or by being man-caused religions not founded on an authentic Divine revelation.

    If humility is to be fruitful in the Church, it needs to be the right kind – just as zeal needs to be the right kind. A humility that allows the conclusion to be drawn that the exalted claims of the Church can be withdrawn, or are false, or meaningless, is not the right kind of humility, for it opens the way to those errors.

  • James M

    They are wrong, and the error is a serious one.

  • James M

    He was. The description conceals an ambiguity – that is dangerous, and should have been avoided. Is the document describing their POV – or the Church’s ? That is what is not crystal-clear. Besides, adoration of God is through Christ and in His Spirit – it is Trinitarian, not Unitarian. God has revealed how He is to be adored – Islam does not conform to that revelation. It is in error. God is not hindered by man’s errors regarding Him – but man is.

  • Jon Brownridge

    “Christian faith is in Christ”. Correct.
    “The only valid religion is that of Christ. Correct again.

    But clearly you do not see a distinction between “Christ” and “Jesus”. They are not the same thing and they are not interchangeable. St Paul frequently speaks of “the Christ” but he is not referring to Jesus. He is speaking of the metaphorical Christ, the model of perfection. As St. Augustine tells us, Christianity preceded Jesus in that the Christ figure was central to all religions for several millennia before Him.

  • Julian Lord

    Pope Francis sat in a simple chair, not a throne

    Actually, Parasum, this quote that you’re disagreeing with is factually misleading — the papal throne (though it can of course take the form of a “simple chair” in the first place) can only be said to be properly present when the Pope gives Holy Mass at Saint Peter’s or at his episcopal See of St John Lateran (or wherever the Holy See might be currently displaced, as has occurred sometimes in History).

    It would have been more accurate to say “Pope Francis sat in a simple chair, not a richly elaborate one” …

  • Julian Lord

    Not “metaphorical” no — eternal.