“POURING GASOLINE ON FIRE” – POPE FRANCIS ON EUROPE’S NEW CHALLENGES ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, MIGRATION

Today was a very busy day for Pope Francis, including a meeting with the bishops of Mali, in Rome on their “ad limina” visit, an audience for members of the joint committee of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), and a welcome in the Paul VI Hall for 7,000 players, managers, members, and supporters of the Sporting Association of Lazio (Societa Sportiva Lazio), one of the Italian capital city’s two football teams.

The Holy Father also tweeted: When we cannot earn our own bread, we lose our dignity. This is a tragedy today, especially for the young.

And today was a very busy day for yours truly, albeit in a vastly different way. I had a number of appointments, on a much smaller scale, of course, that kept me out of the office for a lengthy period. The day is getting late but I do want to being you two items of interest. The first is an article that appeared in the May 4-5 edition of the Vatican paper, L’Osservatore Romano, about the Mohammed cartoon drawing exhibit in Garland, Texas, that ended with violence. The second is the important talk the Pope gave today to the Conference of European Churches about ecumenism, Christian unity, religious freedom and migrants.

And I retweeted the papal tweet!

“POURING GASOLINE ON FIRE”

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican daily, in a front-page article in its May 4-5 edition entitled “Gasoline on the Fire,” likened the Garland, Texas exhibit of drawings of Islam’s prophet Mohammed to “pouring gasoline on fire.” The following is my translation of that brief piece.

The article began: “Garland, near Dallas, is certainly not Paris and the (May 4th) appointment in this Texas city – an exhibit of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed at which was foreseen the participation of several ultra-conservative European politicians – reminds us at a distance of the initiatives of ‘Charlie Hebdo’.  The Texas exhibit can only be compared to the French weekly by its provocative intent, almost wanting to throw gasoline on the fire, while respect will always be the necessary behavior to bring one close to another’s religious experience. But in Garland, as in Paris, it was not this way. Even in the United States we see the extreme and bloodthirsty reaction of armed men who, in any case, experienced an outcome different from the French one.

“According to early reconstruction, two men in a car reached the site of the exhibit and, from the parking lot next to the building, they opened fire, wounding a security officer. The police replied, killing both attackers. A team of explosive experts was called to inspect the car for fear it contained explosives.

“What remains to be verified is the reliability of the claim (for this attack) Via Twitter by the self-styled Islamic State.”

POPE FRANCIS ON EUROPE’S NEW CHALLENGES ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, MIGRATION

This morning Pope Francis received members of the joint committee of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), whose main focus is to facilitate ecumenism throughout the continent. He noted that the situation today is quite different from the past, adding that, thanks to ecumenical dialogue, ecclesiastic communities have taken great steps on the path to reconciliation and peace. (photo: news.va)

POPE - CEC

The Holy Father said the ecumenical journey, even with all its difficulties, is already an integral part of the process of reconciliation and communion, pointing to the conciliar decree “Unitatis Redintegratio” that affirms that the division between Christians “damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature. This is evident when, for example, the European Churches and ecclesiastic communities have different points of view on important anthropological or ethical questions. Nevertheless, I hope that opportunities for common reflection in light of Sacred Scripture and shared tradition will not be lacking and that they will be fruitful … and that we might find common answers to the questions that contemporary society asks of Christians. The closer we are to Christ, the closer we are united among ourselves.”

Pope Francis then underscored how “today European Churches and ecclesiastic communities face new and decisive challenges” saying they “can only be effectively answered by speaking with one voice.”

“I am thinking, for example,” said Francis, “of the challenges of legislation that, in the name of a misunderstood principle of tolerance, wind up blocking citizens from freely expressing and practicing their religious convictions peacefully and legitimately.”

“Moreover,” he stated, “faced with the attitude that Europe seems to have toward the dramatic and often tragic emigration of thousands of persons fleeing war, persecution, and misery, the European Churches and ecclesiastic communities have the duty to promote solidarity and hospitality. European Christians are called upon to intercede with prayer and by actively working to bring dialogue and peace to current conflicts.” (source: VIS)

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