Pope Francis says atheists can be ‘allies’ for the church

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis extended a hand to those who don’t belong to any religion, urging them on Wednesday … Continued

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis extended a hand to those who don’t belong to any religion, urging them on Wednesday (March 20) to work with believers to build peace and protect the environment.

In his first ecumenical meeting, the new pope greeted representatives from Christian churches and other religions, including Jewish and Muslim leaders, who had come to Rome to attend his inaugural Mass on Tuesday.

Francis said that he intends to follow “on the path of ecumenical dialogue” set for the Roman Catholic Church by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

But he also reached out to those who don’t belong “to any religious tradition” but feel the “need to search for the truth, the goodness and the beauty of God.”

Francis echoed his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, saying that the “attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity” has often led to catastrophic violence.

But Francis, who has set a humbler tone to the papacy since his election on March 13, added that atheists and believers can be “precious allies” in their efforts “to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation.”

Francis also stressed the “very special spiritual bond” between Catholics and Jews.

“There is no doubt that Catholic-Jewish relations will go from strength to even greater strength during Pope Francis’s pontificate,” said Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, after meeting with Francis.

Earlier on Wednesday, the pope met privately with the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

According to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Bartholomew and Francis are planning a joint visit to Jerusalem in 2014 to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1964 meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras.

That meeting led to the cancellation of the reciprocal excommunications between the leaders of western and eastern Christianity in 1054, otherwise known as the “Great Schism.”

Bartholomew attended Francis’ inauguration on Tuesday, the first Patriarch to do so in over 900 years.

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

  • cs9243

    “Francis echoed his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, saying that the “attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity” has often led to catastrophic violence.”

    I do not agree with this. In fact religion has caused more violence and wars in human history.

  • J. Davis

    The Story Behind the Peace Prayer of St. Francis

    The Peace Prayer of St. Francis is a famous prayer which first appeared around the year 1915 A.D., and which embodies the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi’s simplicity and poverty.

    According to Father Kajetan Esser, OFM, the author of the critical edition of St. Francis’s Writings, the Peace Prayer of St. Francis is most certainly not one of the writings of St. Francis. This prayer, according to Father Schulz, Das sogennante Franziskusgebet. Forshungen zur evangelishen Gebetslitteratur (III), in Jahrbuch fur Liturgik und Hymnologie, 13 (1968), pp. 39-53, first appeared during the First World War. It was found written on the observe of a holy card of St. Francis, which was found in a Normal Almanac. The prayer bore no name; but in the English speaking world, on account of this holy card, it came to be called the Peace Prayer of St. Francis.

    More information about this prayer can be found in Friar J. Poulenc, OFM, L’inspiration moderne de la priere « Seigneru faites de moi un instrument de votre paix », Archivum Franciscanum Historicum, vol. 68 (1975) pp. 450-453.

    The Peace Prayer of St. Francis

    by an anonymous Norman c. 1915 A.D. Peace Prayer

    Lord make me an instrument of your peace

    Where there is hatred,

    Let me sow love;

    Where there is injury, pardon;

    Where there is error, truth;

    Where there is doubt, faith;

    Where there is despair, hope;

    Where there is darkness, light;

    And where there is sadness, Joy.

    O Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled

    As to console;

    To be understood,as to understand;

    To be loved, as to love.

    For it is in giving that we receive,

    It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

    And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

  • J. Davis

    Your view, cs9243, is in the minority among leaders in History.

    Thomas Jefferson, probably an agnostic, realized that religion is essential to peace and prosperity. It is one of the reasons he is the author of the First Amendment. He realized that religion is necessary to provide people with reasons to be moral and strive for good works in a nation or culture.

    Jefferson also realized that freedom of religion (tolerance of all religion) is a necessary check and balance on oppressive government.