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One world religion?

Q. Recently, Pope Francis signed a document with Muslim leaders about there being one world religion. How can that be? Some of my non-Catholic friends are accusing the pope of being out of line. What really happened? (Batesville, Ark.)

A. I have read the document to which you refer and nowhere can I find a call for "one world religion." Instead, it is a plea for peace and nonviolence, a call to Catholics, Muslims and all believers "to unite and work together" in order to serve "as a guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and sisters."

The joint declaration, titled "A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together," was signed by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, a grand imam of Sunni Muslims, during a visit by the pope to the United Arab Emirates in early February 2019.

It calls 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."

The declaration condemns "all those practices that are a threat to life such as genocide, acts of terrorism, forced displacement, human trafficking, abortion and euthanasia." It notes "that among the most important causes of the crises of the modern world are a desensitized human conscience, a distancing from religious values and a prevailing individualism accompanied by materialistic philosophies."  

Far from urging, as your question says, "one world religion," the document states instead that "the pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in his wisdom" — an observation that has been taken by some Catholic commentators simply to mean that the variety of religions comes under the permissive will of God and indicates the natural desire of humans to know God.

Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019