Pope Francis Celebrates 1st Anniversary of Catholic-Muslim Accord

Pope Francis (L) meets with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, during a visit to the prestigious Sunni institution in Cairo on April 28, 2017. Pope Francis began a visit to Egypt to promote 'unity and fraternity' among Muslims and the embattled Christian minority that has suffered a …
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty

ROME — Pope Francis marked the first anniversary of the Abu Dhabi joint accord Tuesday by calling for “a future free from hatred, resentment, extremism and terrorism.”

“I greet all of you present and especially greet all the people who with humanity help their poor, the sick, the persecuted and weak brothers and sisters regardless of the religion, color, or race to which they belong,” the pope said in a video-message to participants in an anniversary ceremony in Abu Dhabi.

“A year ago, my brother, the Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, imam of Al-Azhar, and I signed a document on human brotherhood in the beloved capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi,” the pontiff said.

The “Declaration on Human Fraternity for world peace and living together” condemned “acts of murder, exile, terrorism and oppression” carried out in God’s name.

We “resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood,” reads the nearly 3,000-word text. “These tragic realities are the consequence of a deviation from religious teachings.”

“We thus call upon all concerned to stop using religions to incite hatred, violence, extremism and blind fanaticism, and to refrain from using the name of God to justify acts of murder, exile, terrorism and oppression,” the two leaders declared.

In his video-message Tuesday, the pope marked the one-year anniversary of what he called “this great humanitarian event,” while also expressing his hope “for a better future for humanity, a future free from hatred, resentment, extremism and terrorism, in which the values of peace, love and brotherhood prevail.”

Today, on this first anniversary, I express my appreciation for the support offered by the United Arab Emirates to the work of the Supreme Committee for the Human Brotherhood.

Francis also thanked the Abrahamic House for instituting the Human Fraternity Award, saying it would encourage “the virtuous models of men and women who in this world embody love through actions and sacrifices made for the good of others, no matter their differences of religion or ethnic and cultural affiliation.”

While the Abu Dhabi declaration was well received by many, it also came under fire from prominent theologians for allegedly “devaluing the person of Jesus” and “undermining the gospel itself” since it seemed to propose that God willed the existence of a plurality of religions just as he wills a plurality of sexes, races, and languages, an assertion that runs counter to Catholic belief.

The passage that provoked the greatest outcry read: “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in his wisdom, through which he created human beings.”

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