Pope Francis asked to lead United Nations of religions body

Former Israeli president Shimon Peres has asked Pope Francis to head a United Nations of religions to counter religious extremism.

In an interview with Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana, Mr Peres said religion is a predominant justification used for wars today, whereas in the past nationhood was the main motivation.

So he proposed a “United Religions” type organisation, which Pope Francis could lead, as the best way to bring about peace.

In the interview, Mr Peres said Pope Francis would be ideal for this role because “perhaps for the first time in history, the Holy Father is a leader who’s respected, not just by a lot of people, but also by different religions and their representatives”.

The former president and joint Nobel Peace Prize recipient told Pope Francis of his idea at a meeting on September 4.

But Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ, said the Pope did not commit himself to the proposal.

“The Pope listened” to the idea just as he always does with any peace initiative, “showing his interest, his attention and encouragement”, Fr Lombardi said.

The Pope reminded Mr Peres that the Vatican has the Pontifical Councils for Interreligious Dialogue and for Justice and Peace – two offices “that are suitable” for supporting or following such initiatives, Fr Lombardi said.

Mr Peres told Famiglia Cristiana the United Nations and its peacekeepers “do not have the force or the effectiveness of any one of the Pope’s homilies, which can draw half a million people just in St Peter’s Square alone”.

“So given that the United Nations has run its course, what we need is an organisation of United Religions,” Mr Peres said.

This would be “the best way to counteract these terrorists who kill in the name of their faith”.

“What we need is an unquestionable moral authority who says out loud, ‘No. God doesn’t want this and doesn’t allow it’,” he added.

Prayer is also an important part of peacemaking, he said; people should not underestimate “the power of the human spirit”.

After meeting Mr Peres, Pope Francis later met with Jordan’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal, who, for the past four decades, has worked to promote interfaith understanding and dialogue around the world.


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