Washington, D.C. — The Pope is celebrating mass at Nationals Stadium in Washington DC, and I can’t help but think of the line from the old Paul Simon song, “The cross is in the ballpark.”
For me, that means there is the possibility of holiness in even the most pedestrian spaces and the most mundane moments.
I welcome a reminder of that, even from a spiritual leader I do not call my own.
I welcome whatever sacred gifts this Pope brings.
I welcome his speaking of the eternal to a world dominated by the material.
I welcome his teachings on love and hope, enshrined in his first two scholarly but poetic Papal Encyclicals. These are values that people of all faiths and no faith at all share. By highlighting them, the Pope creates the space for a respectful conversation between people from different traditions on how they understand and apply hope and love.
I welcome that conversation.
And it has already begun.
After the Pope’s ill-fated remarks on Islam in his Regensburg Address, a group of Muslim scholars opened up that conversation by sending the Pope an Open Letter, done in the Qur’anic tradition of debating “in the fairest way”, which offered gentle clarifications on Islamic thought concerning jihad (it means struggle, not holy war), forced conversion (not allowed in Islam, where there is “no compulsion in religion”) and relations between Christians and Muslims (should be conducted based on the two great commandments, Love of God, and Love of Neighbor).
I will be at the interfaith meeting with the Pope this evening in D.C. And there will be another one, based on a broader document called A Common Word Between Us and You (which originated from the letter described above), in November in Rome.
Here is what I would welcome at tonight’s meeting (which I will write about tomorrow): A concrete commitment to common action based on shared values.
How can Catholics and Muslims – and people of other faiths and no faith at all – apply the values of hope and love, together?
Can we commit to ending malaria?
Can we commit to halving poverty?
Can we commit to educational programs which humanize “the other” instead of denigrating them?
As the Pope wrote in his first Encyclical: “the love which God lavishes on us … we in turn must share with others.”
Watch my interview on this subject with On Faith’s Sally Quinn.