Document on Human Fraternity

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The Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together is a joint statement signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, on 4 February 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It was born of a fraternal open discussion between Francis and Tayeb, and it is meant to be a guide on advancing a "culture of mutual respect".

Basic concept[edit]

The document is concerned with how different faiths can live peaceably in the same world and areas. It is not only a document of theology,[a] but mostly, as St. Paul advised to do,[b] a document of irenics:[3]

  • Francis and Tayeb "declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard."
  • They called on world leaders "to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace; to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline that the world is presently experiencing."
  • They asked leaders and would-be influencers "to rediscover the values of peace, justice, goodness, beauty, human fraternity and coexistence in order to confirm the importance of these values as anchors of salvation for all, and to promote them everywhere."
  • They said that "Terrorism is deplorable and threatens the security of people, be they in the East or the West, the North or the South, and disseminates panic, terror and pessimism, but this is not due to religion, even when terrorists instrumentalize it. It is due, rather, to an accumulation of incorrect interpretations of religious texts and to policies linked to hunger, poverty, injustice, oppression and pride."

Details[edit]

The document suggests one chain of causality for religious and national extremism: "a moral deterioration" in international action and "a weakening of spiritual values" leading to "frustration, isolation and desperation", leading some to fall "into a vortex of […] extremism", leading some to "individual or collective self-destruction".[3]

The body of the document has a paragraph to uphold each of these values:

  • "peace";
  • "freedom […] of every person";
  • "justice based on mercy";
  • "dialogue" in order to promote "peace" and "tolerance", noting that "[d]ialogue among believers" needs to avoid "unproductive discussions";
  • "protection of places of worship";
  • the necessity "to stop […] terrorism", particularly naming "financing, the provision of weapons", and "using media […] to justify" terrorism;
  • "full citizenship";
  • "[g]ood relations between East and West";
  • "the right of women";
  • "protection of the fundamental rights of children"; and
  • "protection of the rights of the elderly, the weak, the disabled, and the oppressed".

Response and criticism[edit]

Diversity of religions[edit]

Most commentary focus on "novel theological formulations […] and questionable assertions of facts",[c][d] particularly on the passage about God's will with regard to the diversity of religions:[3]

Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept. (Emphasis added.)

Chad Pecknold, a systematic theologian at the Catholic University of America,[5][6] assesses this claim as "fitting" "[i]n sensitive inter-religious contexts, […] but some may find it puzzling to hear the Vicar of Christ talk about God willing the diversity of religions".[e] Adam Rasmussen, an openly "pro-Francis partisan"[5] at Georgetown University,[8] hails "the pope's praiseworthy attempt" by quoting "St. (Mother) Teresa",[f] Nostra aetate and Evangelii gaudium, thereby suspecting "that Francis may be at least somewhat familiar with his fellow Jesuit" Jacques Dupuis and his book Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism.[5] In contrast to this ardent defender,[g] Athanasius Schneider corrects the Vicar of Christ under reference to Holy Scripture, Tertullian, Saint Cyprian of Carthage, Saint Athanasius, Saint Augustine, the Magisterium (Humanum genus, Dominus Jesus), the Apostles and Christian martyrs, as well as the Roman Liturgy — viz. the hymn of Lauds of the Feast of Christ the King:[h]

According to the will of Christ, faith in Him and in His Divine teaching must replace other religions, however not by force, but by loving persuasion, as expressed in the hymn of Lauds of the Feast of Christ the King: "Non Ille regna cladibus, non vi metuque subdidit: alto levatus stipite, amore traxit omnia" ("Not with sword, force and fear He subjects peoples, but lifted up on the Cross He lovingly draws all things to Himself").

— Athanasius Schneider, The Gift of Filial Adoption[i]

Since the beginning of Christianity, the divisiveness by "numerous doctrinal errors and inaccuracies […] has serious theological and canonical implications":[15] "A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject."[16]

Francis' attitude towards Islam[edit]

Similar to Guy Pagès, who passed criticism on Evangelii gaudium, William Kilpatrick attacked "this bowdlerized view of Islam"[17] in broader terms. He believes that Tayeb committed himself to promises that are at odds with Islamic belief, notably that the statement's espousal of religious freedom contradicts Islamic apostasy law and that the Koran prescribes the use of violence. He said "it's unlikely that the Muslim parties will stick to their end of the bargain", that the document "seems to have been written almost entirely in Rome", and was an extension of efforts on the part of the Church, and especially Pope Francis, "geared to obfuscating the dangerous differences while emphasizing the surface similarities between Christianity and Islam".[2][j]

"This is not what Muslim converts want to hear from their pope."[19] Since 2017, converted Catholics of Muslim origin ask: "That the Pope seems to propose the Quran as a way of salvation, is that not cause for worry?"[d][c]

Publications[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Whether this document "is not Catholic doctrine […] can only be formally and officially decided by the pope".[1] "Pope Francis […] seems quite willing to employ novel theological formulations […] and questionable assertions of facts […]. [T]here are some pronouncements about God's will in it that are nowhere to be found […] in the gospels."[2]
  2. ^ Romans 12:18: "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." But compare also: The Incident at Antioch.
  3. ^ a b "[T]here are some pronouncements about God's will in it that are nowhere to be found […] in the gospels."[2] Cf. Acts 4:12, referred to by Roberto de Mattei:[4] "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
  4. ^ a b "With the deepest love for Christ who, through you, leads His Church, we, converts from Islam, supported by many of our brothers in the Faith, especially the Christians of the East, and by our friends, ask Your Holiness to confirm our conversion to Jesus Christ, true God and true man, the only Savior, with a frank and right discourse on Islam, and, assuring you of our prayers in the heart of the Immaculate, we ask your apostolic blessing."[20] Commented by Steve Skojec.[21] Cf. also, referred to by William Kilpatrick,[2] John 3:18: "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God", and 14:6: "[N]o man cometh unto the Father, but by me".
  5. ^ "It is puzzling, and potentially problematic, but in the context of the document, the Holy Father is clearly referring not to the evil of many false religions, but positively refers to the diversity of religions only in the sense that they are evidence of our natural desire to know God."[7]
  6. ^ "When I asked her whether she converted, she answered, 'Yes, I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu, or a better Muslim, or a better Protestant, or a better Catholic, or a better Parsee, or a better Sikh, or a better Buddhist. And after you have found God, it is for you to do what God wants you to do.'"[9]
  7. ^ "With Catholics like that, who needs Muslims?"[10]
  8. ^ Compare this hymn to the Regensburg lecture: "Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul […]. God is not pleased by blood—and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats. […] To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death […]."[11] Quoted, with reference to Mark 6:4 and Jeremiah, by George W.Rutler: "If a prophet is not without honor save in his own country, a great prophet is not without honor save in the whole world. […] Of one thing we may be certain: like the bold prophet Jeremiah, the benign prophet Benedict will never say in this world or from the next, 'I told you so.' Reality has said that already by events more than words."[12].
  9. ^ Published by 1P5 and LifeSiteNews,[13] with follow-up by Steve Skojec and Diane Montagna.[14]
  10. ^ "The alleged affiliation of Muslims to Abraham lacks not only a biblical-theological basis but also a genealogical-historical one."[18]