“Reckless” Pope committed to dialogue

interreligious dialogue

Papal critics have accused Pope Francis of being “reckless” and verging on heresy in his outreach to Muslims.

“There are some critics who say the pope is not brave but ‘reckless’, that he’s taking steps against Catholic doctrine. That he’s one step from heresy,” the pope told journalists, March 8, on the plane from Iraq back to Rome.

Francis said his efforts to mend Christian-Muslim relations are far from being “capricious,” and are in keeping with the doctrine laid out by the Second Vatican Council.

He said his decision to speak with Muslim religious leaders and promote interreligious dialogue is ‘always made in prayer, in dialogue, asking for advice.’

Pope Francis became the first Roman pontiff to visit Iraq on his March 5-8 apostolic visit.

On March 6, the pope met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most prominent Shiite leader. The historic 45 minute meeting was the first official meeting between a pope and a prominent Shiite representative.

The pope described al-Sistani as “a humble man” who has “wisdom and prudence”. He added that “it was good for my soul to encounter him”.

Francis said the meeting was “a duty in his pilgrimage of faith” to promote human fraternity among religions.

It was Francis’ second major outreach to Muslims. In 2019, Francis cosigned a declaration of human fraternity in Cairo, Egypt, with the Muslim Sunni leader Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar.

The pope and al-Sistani didn’t sign a document.

Still, Francis described the interreligious dialogue as “a second step” in realizing the vision enshrined in his 2020 encyclical “Brothers All.”

“This (trip) for me is like coming back to life. Because it means to touch the church, to touch the holy people of God, all the peoples,” he said.

He defended his decision to travel to Iraq as coming “from inside” and “knowing the risks.”


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