March 25, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Vatican’s office for promoting interreligious dialogue has asked Catholic university professors to give the “widest possible dissemination” to a controversial joint statement signed by Pope Francis last month that claims a “diversity of religions” is “willed by God.” The office adds that the request comes from Pope Francis himself (read full letter below).
The letter of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, which was obtained by LifeSiteNews, is dated February 21, 2019. It was sent last week to Catholic university professors in Rome, together with the attached "Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together" which Pope Francis signed with Grand Imam Ahmad el-Tayeb in Abu Dhabi on February 4.
Bishop Miguel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council, wrote in the letter that the “Holy Father has asked this Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to contribute to the widest possible dissemination of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” as it had been originally signed by Pope Francis and by Ahmad el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar Mosque.
Guixot asked professors, priests, and sisters at universities to "facilitate the distribution, the study, and the reception” of the document, adding that the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue “will be grateful to you already now for any possible initiative, in the frame of this institution, which aims at the spreading of this Document.”
The letter also quotes some passages from the Abu Dhabi document, in which both signatories pledge “to convey this Document to authorities, influential leaders, persons of religion all over the world, appropriate regional and international organizations, organizations within civil society, religious institutions and leading thinkers.” The signers promise to “make known the principles contained in this Declaration at all regional and international levels, while requesting that these principles be translated into policies, decisions, legislative texts, courses of study and materials to be circulated.” A further aim is to “educate new generations” in the sense of this document for world peace and fraternity among peoples and religions.
Critics have called passages in the document "false" and "heretical."
Cardinal Raymond Burke said the passage which says that God wills a diversity of religions, is wrong and should be removed.
The statement “has to be removed from this accord because it’s not correct,” he said.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider said earlier this month that in a private conversation he had with Pope Francis on the matter, the pope assured him that the "phrase in question on the diversity of religions means the permissive will of God."
Prominent Catholic philosopher Professor Josef Seifert criticized that – in spite of the private correction of this disturbing sentence which Pope Francis himself made in conversation with Bishop Schneider and his fellow Kazakh bishops – the Pope still wants this document to be disseminated without the statement being corrected.
The February 21 Vatican letter, as it was sent to Catholic university professors on March 21, thus aims at disseminating an ambiguous document that sparked much controversy among Catholics when it was first published on February 4, 2019, especially since it does not contain a formal correction of the following particular sentence:
The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.
At the time, Bishop Schneider – among many other voices – contradicted such a statement, since “Christianity is the only God-willed religion.” “Therefore,” he said, “it can never be placed complementarily side by side with other religions. Those would violate the truth of Divine Revelation, as it is unmistakably affirmed in the First Commandment of the Decalogue, who would assert that the diversity of religions is the will of God."
In comments to LifeSiteNews, Seifert strongly criticized the controversial passage of the Abu Dhabi statement. The claim that the “diversity of religions” is “willed by God,” he stated, means the “rejection of the Christian Faith: How can God bind eternal salvation to the Faith in Jesus Christ and then, from the time of Creation, will religions which reject this Faith?”
“How can He mandate us to go out into the world to teach the Gospels to all nations and to baptize them, but at the same time wills religions which reject the Gospels and Baptism?” Seifert further asked. In his view, with this claim, the document “directly rejects the Church's absolute claim to truth (which by the way is also held by Islam for its own religion),” and, with it “the whole Creed (since each sentence of the Creed contradicts the creeds of many other religions), all dogmas of the Church, all of her moral teachings.” At the same time, the Austrian professor added, “not only all heresies, but also all non-Christian religions are being given the honor to be willed by God.”
Professor Seifert also commented on the fact that Pope Francis has had a letter sent to Catholic universities in order to disseminate this contested Abu Dhabi document. In spite of the fact that Bishop Schneider received from Pope Francis a sort of indirect correction of this Abu Dhabi statement, “Pope Francis obviously has not only not rescinded this statement, but now even has it sent out to all universities with the request for universal dissemination.”
This is an “unprecedented heresy of all heresies,” Seifert explained, “to spread this unaltered declaration” that the diverse religions are willed by God “without the slightest (and, what is more, unconvincing) declaration that it is merely about the permissive will of God.”
According to Josef Seifert, a private remark (as given in the presence of Bishop Schneider) is not sufficient, in order to rescind “the approval of all heresies and of all those religions which are in contradiction with Christianity as it is to be found in the Abu Dhabi declaration.”
Seifert said that the statement read at face value places the Pope "outside the Church and of the Christian Faith in general, as well as outside of reason."
"For, how could God will contradictions to those most important revealed truths which are simultaneously also willed by Him? This assumption would make God either a lunatic who violates the foundation of all reason – the principle of non-contradiction – and who is a monumental relativist, or a confused God who is indifferent to the matter of whether people witness to the truth or not."
Professor Seifert said that Catholics have the duty to defend the Catholic truth.
“According to the natural law, all priests, cardinals, bishops, and laymen are duty-bound to call upon the Pope to either reject this sentence [about the diversity of religions willed by God] or to resign as Pope," he said.
Translation of the February 21 letter of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue:
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
Vatican, 21 February 2019
Prot. N. 129-19
Rev. Father/ Rev. Sister/ Dear Professor,
The Holy Father has asked this Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to contribute to the widest possible dissemination of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, which has been signed at Abu Dhabi, on 4 February, by the same Supreme Pontiff and by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.
Associated in this way with the announcement and promise that the signatories of this Document have enshrined, I wish to ask Your Eminence/ Excellency to facilitate the distribution, the study, and the reception, because:
[…] the Catholic Church and Al-Azhar announce and pledge to convey this Document to authorities, influential leaders, persons of religion all over the world, appropriate regional and international organizations, organizations within civil society, religious institutions and leading thinkers. They further pledge to make known the principles contained in this Declaration at all regional and international levels, while requesting that these principles be translated into policies, decisions, legislative texts, courses of study and materials to be circulated.
Al-Azhar and the Catholic Church ask that this Document become the object of research and reflection in all schools, universities and institutes of formation, thus helping to educate new generations to bring goodness and peace to others, and to be defenders everywhere of the rights of the oppressed and of the least of our brothers and sisters.
The Pontifical Council will be grateful to you already now for any possible initiative, in the frame of this institution, which aims at the spreading of this Document.
For all good purposes, I allow myself to attach the Document in its two original languages – Italian and Arabic – while at the same time pointing out that other official translations are available on the official website of the Apostolic See: http://w2.vatican.va
I use this opportunity to assure you, with most distinguished feelings, of my cordial respect,
+ Miguel Ángel AYUSO GUIXOT, M.C.C.J.
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