ROME — Pope Francis addressed an interreligious gathering on the Plain of Ur in Iraq Saturday, calling for unity among all who believe in the God of Abraham.
“Today we, Jews, Christians and Muslims, together with our brothers and sisters of other religions, honor our father Abraham by doing as he did: we look up to heaven and we journey on earth,” the pope told the audience.
In his address, the pope made the case that human fraternity is only possible when God is recognized as the Creator of all and the Father of all. When God is ignored, he suggested, human beings lose their value as well.
If we want to preserve fraternity, “we must not lose sight of heaven,” he said. “May we – the descendants of Abraham and the representatives of different religions – sense that, above all, we have this role: to help our brothers and sisters to raise their eyes and prayers to heaven.”
“We all need this because we are not self-sufficient,” Francis continued. “Man is not omnipotent; we cannot make it on our own.”
“If we exclude God, we end up worshiping the things of this earth,” the pope said. “Worldly goods, which lead so many people to be unconcerned with God and others, are not the reason why we journey on earth.”
The worship of God frees human beings from vanity and egotism, the pontiff asserted, reminding him of his true place in the universe.
“This is true religiosity: to worship God and to love our neighbour,” he said. “In today’s world, which often forgets or presents distorted images of the Most High, believers are called to bear witness to his goodness, to show his paternity through our fraternity.”
The pope also returned to a theme that has marked several of his speeches in Iraq: the condemnation of violence perpetrated in God’s name.
“From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters,” he said.
“Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion,” he continued. “We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion; indeed, we are called unambiguously to dispel all misunderstandings.”
“Let us not allow the light of heaven to be overshadowed by the clouds of hatred!” he insisted. “Dark clouds of terrorism, war and violence have gathered over this country.”
Francis asked his hearers to pray “that freedom of conscience and freedom of religion will everywhere be recognized and respected; these are fundamental rights, because they make us free to contemplate the heaven for which we were created.”
The pope also advanced his belief that the journey of peace begins from “the decision not to have enemies.”
“Anyone with the courage to look at the stars, anyone who believes in God, has no enemies to fight,” he argued. “He or she has only one enemy to face, an enemy that stands at the door of the heart and knocks to enter. That enemy is hatred.”
“It is up to us to remind the world that human life has value for what it is and not for what it has,” he said. “That the lives of the unborn, the elderly, migrants and men and women, whatever the color of their skin or their nationality, are always sacred and count as much as the lives of everyone else!”