Pope Francis’s Interreligious Speech in Iraq: Top Lines

Pope Francis’s Interreligious Speech in Iraq: Top Lines March 6, 2021

This morning, Pope Francis gave a speech to an interreligious meeting on the plain of Ur. Abraham lived in Ur until God called him. The focus of the meeting seemed to be the three main religions that trace themselves back to Abraham – Jews, Christians, and Muslims. As I read it, a few lines jumped out so maybe me pulling out these lines will help those who haven’t the time to read it all. (I started this as a Twitter thread, but it got too long and a few quotes were beyond the Twitter character limit.)

Shen Jiawei with his Portrait of Pope Francis presented to His Holiness on 28 April 2014
Shen Jiawei with his Portrait of Pope Francis presented to His Holiness on 28 April 2014. Chosen here because it represents this trip with the doves and all images form the trip are copyrighted (CC BY-SA 3.0 Gabriella Clare Marino)

Like Abraham

Pope Francis begins by describing Abraham’s journey as our own:

Today we, Jews, Christians and Muslims, together with our brothers and sisters of other religions, honor our father Abraham by doing as he did: we look up to heaven and we journey on earth… Thousands of years later, as we look up to the same sky, those same stars appear. They illumine the darkest nights because they shine together. Heaven thus imparts a message of unity: the Almighty above invites us never to separate ourselves from our neighbors. The otherness of God points us towards others, towards our brothers and sisters. Yet if we want to preserve fraternity, we must not lose sight of heaven.

Materialism and Attachments

Then he crushes modern materialism. I hope this is the line people remember as it is the line I think most needed in the USA and Canada.

If we exclude God, we end up worshiping the things of this earth. Worldly goods, which lead so many people to be unconcerned with God and others, are not the reason why we journey on earth. We raise our eyes to heaven in order to raise ourselves from the depths of our vanity; we serve God in order to be set free from enslavement to our egos, because God urges us to love.

Francis also points to giving up our attachments to journey heavenward together:

Abraham had to leave his land, home and family. Yet by giving up his own family, he became the father of a family of peoples. Something similar also happens to us: on our own journey, we are called to leave behind those ties and attachments that, by keeping us enclosed in our own groups, prevent us from welcoming God’s boundless love and from seeing others as our brothers and sisters. We need to move beyond ourselves, because we need one another. The pandemic has made us realize that “no one is saved alone” (Fratelli tutti, 54).

Mercy and Charity, Not Violence

Pope Francis points out God is a God of Mercy, not violence:

From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters. Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion. We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion; indeed, we are called unambiguously to dispel all misunderstandings.

Moving to hope, the Pope wants religion to seek peace and aid for the poor.

Father Abraham, who was able to hope against all hope (cf. Rom 4:18), encourages us. Throughout history, we have frequently pursued goals that are overly worldly and journeyed on our own, but with the help of God, we can change for the better. It is up to us, today’s humanity, especially those of us, believers of all religions, to turn instruments of hatred into instruments of peace. It is up to us to appeal firmly to the leaders of nations to make the increasing proliferation of arms give way to the distribution of food for all.

Hopefully, this short collection will help you appreciate what Pope Francis was saying. Read the rest if you want.

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