Religious fundamentalism is a plague, says pope

An important way to oppose the plague of religious fundamentalism is through interreligious dialogue, says Pope Francis.

It is an effective means of countering accusations that religions sow division, he told representatives from the Argentine Institute for Interreligious Dialogue this week.

In “today’s precarious world, dialogue among religions is not a weakness. It finds its reason for being in the dialogue of God with humanity.”

Denouncing the fundamentalist mentality which “we cannot accept nor understand and cannot function anymore,” Francis added: “We must beware of fundamentalist groups; each (religion) has their own.

“Fundamentalism is a plague and all religions have some fundamentalist first cousin.”

Francis invited the Institute members visiting Rome to reflect on the document on “human fraternity” and to improve Christian-Muslim relations.

Francis and Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar and a leading religious authority for many Sunni Muslims, co-signed the document in February.

Its aim is to show how to adopt a “culture of dialogue” while respecting each other’s unique identity,” Francis told the institute members.

“This is key: Identity cannot be negotiated because if you negotiate your identity, there is no dialogue, there is submission. Each (religion) with its own identity are on the path of dialogue.”

Explaining the “complex human reality” of brotherhood can be seen in scripture when God asks Cain where his brother is, Francis says this question is still relevant.

It should lead members of all religions to reflect on ways of becoming “channels of brotherhood instead of walls of division,” he says.

Looking at history – such as Catholic-Protestant massacres – is a good way to do this.

“Whoever doesn’t feel frightened from within [about this] should ask themselves why.”

Francis says he hopes the international community will welcome the “human fraternity” document “for the good of the human family who must pass from simple tolerance to true and peaceful coexistence.

“It is important to show that we believers are a factor of peace for human societies and in doing so, we will respond to those who unjustly accuse religions of inciting hatred and causing violence.”

The Institute for Interreligious Dialogue was founded in Buenos Aires in 2002.

It was inspired by Francis while he was still a Cardinal, as a way “to promote understanding among men and women of different religious traditions in our city and the world.”


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