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Pope Francis and former Israeli President Shimon Peres met for an extended 45 minute private conversation. The focus of this discussion was a proposal by Peres to establish a “United Nations of Religions”. It was the third meeting between the two men in a little more than four months. As you will see below, Pope Francis showed “his interest, attention, and encouragement” as Peres explained his proposal. Of course Pope Francis didn’t commit to anything, and we probably will not see a “United Nations of Religions” any time soon, but every idea has to start somewhere. If Pope Francis does ultimately decide to actively push for such a thing, could we eventually see a single global body that claims to represent all of the religions of the world?
It is very unusual for a Pope to meet with any world leader three times in just over four months. But it is this latest meeting between Pope Francis and Shimon Peres that was the most noteworthy by far. The following is how Fox News reported on it…
Retired Israeli President Shimon Peres has proposed a new global peace initiative to Pope Francis: A “United Nations of Religions,” given that most wars today have religious, not nationalistic, undercurrents.
The Vatican said Peres pitched the initiative during a 45-minute audience Thursday in the Apostolic Palace. The two men last met when Francis invited the then-Israeli president and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to pray for peace together in the Vatican gardens on June 8.
So exactly why does Peres want a “United Nations of Religions”?
Well, according to the Jerusalem Post it is because he believes that such a body would have the best chance of preventing war and violence in the world…
In an interview with the Catholic Magazine Famiglia Cristiana, Peres called on Francis to leverage his respect to create an interfaith organization to curb religious violence.
“What we need is an organization of United Religions… as the best way to combat terrorists who kill in the name of faith,” Peres said. “What we need is an unquestionable moral authority who says out loud, ‘No, God does not want this and does not allow it.’”
After his private meeting with Peres, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said that the Pope “listened, showing his interest, attention, and encouragement” while Peres shared his ideas. The Pope did not commit to anything, but he also did not dismiss the idea of a United Nations of Religions.
And the truth is that such an organization would fit in very well with what the Pope has been trying to do his entire tenure. He has been doing just about all that he can to “build bridges” to other religions.
For example, earlier this year the Pope authorized “Islamic prayers and readings from the Quran” at the Vatican for the first time ever…
For the first time in history, Islamic prayers and readings from the Quran will be heard at the Vatican on Sunday, in a move by Pope Francis to usher in peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Francis issued the invitation to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit last week to Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas, Peres, and Francis will be joined by Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious leaders, a statement released by Peres’s spokesperson said, according to the Times of Israel.
And the Pope has been relentlessly reaching out to Protestant organizations.
Here is one example of him reaching out to American charismatics from earlier this summer…
Two controversial TV preachers recently met Pope Francis in an effort to work toward tearing down the ‘walls of division’ between Catholics and Protestants.
Kenneth Copeland and James Robison are two religious leaders in northeast Texas known for drawing huge crowds to their services and events, and who were a part of leading the group identifying as a “delegation of Evangelical Christian leaders” in its meeting with the Roman Catholic pontiff late last month.
In addition, earlier this year the Pope even met with television minister Joel Osteen…
Megachurch speaker and author Joel Osteen was among a group of political and religious leaders who met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday.
According to reports, Osteen was part of a delegation organized by the International Foundation in an effort to encourage interfaith relations and ecumenicism. Utah Senator Mike Lee (R), a Mormon, Gayle Beebe, the president of the interdenominational Westmont College in California, and Pastor Tim Timmons, founder of South Coast Community Church also in California, were among those who who greeted the pope, along with Osteen.
“I just felt very honored and very humbled,” Osteen told local television station Click 2 Houston. “It was amazing. And even to go back into that part of the Vatican—there’s so much history there, the place that they took us through. You feel that deep respect and reverence for God.”
And this is not something that just started recently. Pope Francis has been pushing an ecumenical agenda very hard from the very first moments of his papacy. For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Pope Francis And The Emerging One World Religion“.
But there is one type of Christian that Pope Francis does not have anything positive to say about.
Pope Francis says that there is not any room for “fundamentalism” in Christianity…
Following his first visit to the Middle East as pope last month, the pontiff criticized fundamentalism in Christianity, Islam and Judaism as a form of violence.
“A fundamentalist group, even if it kills no one, even it strikes no one, is violent. The mental structure of fundamentalism is violence in the name of God.”
But exactly what is “fundamentalism”?
The following is the definition that Google gives when you do a search…
“a form of a religion, especially Islam or Protestant Christianity, that upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture.”
So is Pope Francis rejecting those Christians that believe in a strict, literal interpretation of the Bible?
And precisely what is his overall agenda?
Why has he been working so hard to reach out to other major religions all over the planet?
Just a day before gay marriage in the U.S. received a significant boost from the Supreme Court, the much-anticipated Extraordinary Synod on the Family opened in Rome yesterday with Pope Francis pointedly criticizing “bad shepherds” who seek money and power and “lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move.”
As some 190 bishops and a collection of lay advisors meet to discuss “pastoral challenges” facing Catholic families, divisions are being laid bare in the church that were largely suppressed in the Pope John Paul II/Benedict years, with a cabal of conservative bishops (presumably the “bad shepherds”) looking to beat back any liberalization of church doctrine promoted by more moderate cardinals.
Realistically any alteration of church doctrine that would come out of the synod would be modest and most likely would revolve around communion for divorced Catholics. On the more conservative end, there might be some minor tweaks to the annulment process that would broaden the grounds for annulment to include being too immature to have entered into a legitimate sacramental marriage.
On the most optimistically liberal end, Francis’ major ally Cardinal Walter Kasper has suggested some sort of “penance” work-around that wouldn’t alter the church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage but would allow some divorced Catholics to receive Communion even if they’ve remarried without having their previous marriage annulled.
From both the preparatory synod document and the buzz going in, there appears to be zero change of any revision to doctrine involving contraception or gay marriage.
But this doesn’t mean that the stakes aren’t still high. What’s evolving isn’t so much a battle over doctrine but a fight for the soul of the church. Francis and his allies are promoting a vision of the church that’s much more live-and-let-live, repeatedly turning to the word “mercy” to describe how they view the application of doctrine to the actual lives of Catholics, guided by a sense of the larger mission of the church as spreading the Gospel, not enforcing laws.
Conservatives, led by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, are insisting that there can be no change to church doctrine or its application, and they’ve launched a concerted campaign to forestall any changes regarding divorce and communion. In fact, Müller and four other cardinals, including Cardinal Raymond Burke, released a book just ahead of the synod entitled Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church which counters arguments made by Kasper to the bishops last February. Müller also released a book-length interview in which he argues that the “total indissolubility of a valid marriage is not a mere doctrine, it is a divine and definitive dogma of the Church.”
In yet another book arguing against change, Cardinal George Pell, a key Vatican official, said the “sooner the wounded, the lukewarm, and the outsiders realize that substantial doctrinal and pastoral changes are impossible,” the better for the church.
Burke also conducted a teleconference with reporters last week to further argue that any change in doctrine is impossible and to cast doubt on assertions by Kasper that he was speaking for the pope when he said the church should find a way to extend mercy to divorced and remarried Catholics.
Kasper fired back with an interview in America magazine in which he accused the conservatives of “theological fundamentalism,” and said they “fear a domino effect, [that] if you change one point all would collapse,” referring to the fear that any change to marriage policy would undercut other positions related to sex. Kasper also accused conservatives of having “an ideological understanding of the Gospel that the Gospel is like a penal code.”
The hardliners on divorce were backed by an open letter to the synod signed by 48 conservatives, including prominent Catholics like natural law scholar Robert George and former US ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, but also conservative protestants like Rick Warren and signees from the Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council, which suggests that the fight over the Catholic Church’s divorce policy is seeping into the larger political debate about same-sex marriage.
Decrying every conservative bogeyman from the increasing acceptance of cohabitation and out-of-wedlock birth to the “role of pornography and ‘no-fault’ divorce in the marriage crisis,” they call on the pope remain strong in support of “timeless truths about marriage” and suggest a series of steps the church can take to support more conservative notions of marriage, largely focused on pressuring couples to forswear divorce.
If this all sounds a lot like a political campaign on the part of conservatives, that’s because it is. And it’s emblematic of how they’ve largely run the church for the past 35 years, aligning themselves with political conservatives here in the U.S., taking a hardline stand against letting any daylight into church doctrine, and suggesting that anyone who would do so is literally going against the word of God.
But now Francis’ popularity, as well as the expectations of change that have been set by the synod, suggest a new calculus that shines a harsh light on this overt political maneuvering. This may give moderates the opening to make some modest changes that, while perhaps small in the lives of ordinary Catholics, will set the dangerous precedent that the church can change. Maybe conservatives are right to be afraid after all. –Religious Dispatches
The number two man, second only to the Pope, instructs parents to not let their children have any contact with gay people who engage in "evil, wrong," and "disordered" relationships.
Raymond Burke is the former Archbishop of St. Louis. He now serves as the Vatican's number two man, the Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
The very anti-gay, anti-women, American website LifeSiteNews went to Rome and interviewed Cardinal Burke. When asked about gay family members, Burke had a great deal to say.
Same-sex relationship are, Burke said, "intrinsically disordered," so, he pondered, "what would it mean to grandchildren to have present at a family gathering a family member who is living [in] a disordered relationship with another person?”
Burke adds that the issue of children being in the company of gay people is "made even more delicate by the aggressiveness of the homosexual agenda."
He did not explain his comments, but answering his own question, the Cardinal said, "if it were another kind of relationship — something that was profoundly disordered and harmful — we wouldn't expose our children to that relationship, to the direct experience of it. And neither should we do it in the context of a family member who not only suffers from same-sex attraction, but who has chosen to live out that attraction, to act upon it, committing acts which are always and everywhere wrong, evil."
The Cardinal goes on to claim that "we know" same-sex relationships and marriages make people "profoundly unhappy."
He adds that gay relationships "scandalize" and should not be "imposed on family members, especially impressionable children."
Pope Francis had some harsh words for religious extremists, voicing his strongest condemnation yet for those who use religion to justify violence.
Speaking on Sunday to an audience that included the President, governmental authorities, and diplomatic corps of Albania, where he is spending a one-day apostolic visit, the first Argentinean pope directly addressed the growing issue of religious violence. Francis first praised the “climate of respect” in Albania — which is a Muslim-majority country — between Muslims, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians, saying the culture of tolerance was a “precious gift.” He then expressed firm criticism for those who cite faith as grounds for killing others.
“Let no one consider themselves to be the ‘armor’ of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression!” the pope said. “May no one use religion as a pretext for actions against human dignity and against the fundamental rights of every man and woman, above all, the right to life and the right of everyone to religious freedom!”
The comments appear to be an indirect reference to the actions of groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the militant organization that has made international headlines for committing mass killings and beheadings while claiming to be Islamic. Francis has expressed ambivalence about how the global community should respond to the threat of ISIS, condoning some form of action to halt their advance across the Middle East but stopping just short of promoting violent military intervention.
Francis has been a staunch opponent of violence since ascending to the papacy, repeatedly citing his Catholic faith while insisting that world leaders embrace peace. He invited heads of state from both Israel and Palestine to the Vatican earlier this year to participate in a “prayer summit” for peace, and when the United States considered using airstrikes in Syria last September, Francis called on Catholics to protest by fasting and declared, “War begets war, violence begets violence.” He has also spoken at length about the horrors of war during a sermon in July that may have challenged the Catholic church’s own concept of “Just War Doctrine,” saying, “Brothers and sisters, never war, never war! Everything is lost with war, nothing is lost with peace. Never more war.” -Think Progress
A punter was at the horse races playing the ponies and all but losing his shirt when he noticed a priest had stepped out onto the track and blessed the forehead of one of the horses lined up for the 4th race.
Lo and behold! that horse won the race by a long shot.
The next race, as the horses lined up, the priest again stepped onto the track. Sure enough, he blessed one of the horses.
This time, the punter made a beeline for a betting window and placed a small bet on the "blessed" horse. Again, even though it was another long shot, the horse won the race.
He then collected his winnings, and anxiously waited to see which horse the priest would bless next. He bet big on it, and again it won. As the day's races continued the priest kept blessing long shots, and each one ended up winning.
The punter was on cloud nine after collecting the winnings from his bets. He made a quick dash to the ATM, withdrew all his savings, and awaited for the priest's blessing which he took as signal as to which horse to bet on.
True to his pattern, the priest stepped onto the track for the last race and blessed the forehead of an old nag that was the longest shot of the day. However, this time the priest also blessed the eyes, ears, and hooves of the old nag. The punter thought for sure that this had to be the big winner and bet every cent he owned on the old nag.
He watched dumbfounded as the old nag came in last. In a state of shock, he went to the track area where the priest stood, and he confronted the priest saying, 'Father! What happened? All day long you blessed horses, so I bet on them, and they all won. Then, in the last race, the horse you blessed lost by a mile. Now, thanks to you, I've lost every cent of my savings!'
The priest looked at the man sympathetically.
Then, the priest with his head shaking said, 'Son, that's the problem with you Protestants, you can't tell the difference between a simple blessing and the last rites.' -Contributed by Ralph
Catholic bishops are showing unprecedented openness to accepting the real lives of many Catholics today, saying gays have gifts to offer the church and should be accepted and that there are "positive" aspects to a couple living together without being married.
A two-week meeting of bishops on family issues arrived at its halfway point Monday with a document summarizing the closed-door debate so far. No decisions were announced, but the tone of the preliminary document was one of almost-revolutionary acceptance, rather than condemnation, with the aim of guiding Catholics toward the ideal of a lasting marriage.
The bishops said gays had "gifts and qualities" to offer and asked rhetorically if the church was ready to provide them a welcoming place, "accepting and valuing their sexual orientation without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony."
For a 2,000-year-old institution that believes gay sex is "intrinsically disordered," even posing the question is significant.
"This is a stunning change in the way the Catholic church speaks of gay people," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit author. "The Synod is clearly listening to the complex, real-life experiences of Catholics around the world, and seeking to address them with mercy, as Jesus did."
The bishops repeated that gay marriage was off the table. But it acknowledged that gay partnerships had merit.
"Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions, it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners," they said.
For heterosexuals, the bishops said they must grasp the "positive reality of civil weddings" and even cohabitation, with the aim of helping the couple commit eventually to a church wedding.
The bishops also called for a re-reading of the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae that outlined the church's opposition to artificial birth control. The bishops said couples should be unconditionally open to having children, but that the message of Humanae Vitae "underlines the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control."
There has been much talk inside the synod about applying the theological concept of the "law of gradualness" in difficult family situations. The concept encourages the faithful to take one step at a time in the search for holiness.
Applying the concept to matters of birth control would be an acknowledgement that most Catholics already use artificial contraception in violation of church teaching. But it would encourage pastors to meet them where they are, and then help them come to understand the full reasoning behind the ban.
Bishops also called for "courageous" new ways to minister to families, especially those "damaged" by divorce. The document didn't take sides in the most divisive issue at the synod, whether Catholics who divorce and remarry without an annulment can receive Communion.
The document said these Catholics deserve respect and should not be discriminated against, and then laid out the positions of both sides: those who want to maintain the status quo barring them from the sacraments, and those who favor a case-by-case approach, in which the couple undertake a path of penance.
Pope Francis has called for a more merciful approach to these couples, but conservatives have insisted there is no getting around Jesus' words that marriage is indissoluble. –One News Now