Document on Human Fraternity

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The Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, also known as the Abu Dhabi declaration[1] or Abu Dhabi agreement,[2] 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. The document was born of a fraternal open discussion between Francis and Tayeb and is concerned with how different faiths can live peacefully in the same world, and it is meant to be a guide on advancing a "culture of mutual respect".

The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity has been established instituted to fulfill the aspirations of the Document on Human Fraternity internationally.[3] The principles of compassion and human solidarity embodied in this text are the same ones that later inspired the declaration designating February 4 as the International Day of Human Fraternity, as indicated by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.[4][5]

In his 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis stated that the Document on Human Fraternity "was no mere diplomatic gesture, but a reflection born of dialogue and common commitment".[6]

Basic concept[edit]

The Document is concerned with how different faiths can live peaceably in the same world and areas. In the declaration:[7]

  • 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."


The Document suggests one chain of causality for religious and national extremism: "a moral deterioration" in international action and "a weakening of spiritual values" causing "frustration, isolation and desperation", leading some to fall "into a vortex of […] extremism", leading some to "individual or collective self-destruction".[7]

Response and criticism[edit]

Diversity of religions[edit]

Some commentary on the Document focuses on alleged "novel theological formulations ... and questionable assertions of facts",[a] particularly in a passage concerning God's will with regard to the diversity of religions:[7]

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,[10][11] 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". However, Pecknold clarifies that "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."[12] Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Astana, claims that Pope Francis also clarified to him that he was referring to "the permissive will of God".[13]

Nevertheless, on 10 June 2019, Cardinals Raymond Leo Burke and Jānis Pujats, Archbishops Tomasz Peta and Jan Paweł Lenga and Bishop Schneider published a 40-point "Declaration of Truths", stating that "the religion born of faith in Jesus Christ" is the "only religion positively willed by God".[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "[T]here are some pronouncements about God's will in it that are nowhere to be found […] in the gospels."[8] Cf. Acts 4:12, referred to by Roberto de Mattei:[9] "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."


  1. ^ Brockhaus, Hannah (26 August 2019). "Pope Francis lends support to committee on Abu Dhabi declaration". Catholic News Agency. Archived from the original on 13 September 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  2. ^ Reese, Thomas (4 October 2020). "Five things to look for in Pope Francis' new encyclical, 'Fratelli Tutti'". Religion News Service. Archived from the original on 6 October 2020. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  3. ^ The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity homepage,
  4. ^ Nations, United (4 February 2021). "First-ever International Day of Human Fraternity focuses on tolerance | United Nations". United Nations. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  5. ^ Nations, United. "Secretary-General's message for 2022 | International Day of Human Fraternity". United Nations. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  6. ^ Altieri, Christopher (4 October 2020). "Pope Francis releases Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti". Catholic Herald. Archived from the original on 4 October 2020. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Document on Human Fraternity 2019.
  8. ^ Kilpatrick 2019b.
  9. ^ de Mattei, Roberto (4 April 2019). "De Mattei on the Francis Pontificate: Six Years of 'Hypocrisy and Lies'" (Interview). Interviewed by Aldo Maria Valli [in Italian]. OnePeterFive. Archived from the original on 10 April 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  10. ^ Rasmussen 2019.
  11. ^ CUA 2019.
  12. ^ "Pope signs declaration saying God 'wills' religious pluralism. What does this mean?". Catholic Herald. 10 February 2019. Archived from the original on 10 February 2019.
  13. ^ Gabriel, Pedro (12 March 2019). "Pluralism and the will of God... is there another way to look at it?". Where Peter Is. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  14. ^ Pentin, Edward (10 June 2019). "New 'Declaration of Truths' Affirms Key Church Teachings". National Catholic Register.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]