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  • John Thavis

Highlights of pope’s talk on ecumenical, interreligious dialogue

This morning Pope Francis addressed representatives of other Christian churches and other religions who came to Rome for his inaugural Mass. It was a pretty standard speech, with some interesting points of emphasis that reflect the new pope’s agenda.

Here are a few highlights:

— He addressed the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I of Constantinople, as “my brother Andrew.” The reference was to St. Andrew, the patron saint of the Orthodox patriarchate, just as St. Peter is the patron saint of the Catholic Church.

— He said the best service Christians can give to ecumenism is to witness their faith “freely, joyfully and courageously.” This is especially needed in a world marked by divisions and rivalries, he added.

— The pope, who as a cardinal in Argentina had excellent relations with Jewish leaders, underlined the “special spiritual bond” between Christians and Jews and pledged to continue dialogue.

— Greeting Muslims, he said the followers of Islam “worship the one, living and merciful God, and invoke him in prayer.”

— The pope outlined particularly fruitful terrain for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue: in protecting the environment, in working for social justice and, above all, in cultivating a thirst for the absolute in a world where the human person is often “reduced to what he or she produces and what he or she consumes.”

— The pope’s only mention of violence came when he spoke about the “efforts in recent history to eliminate God and the divine from the human horizon,” an apparent reference to atheistic communist regimes.

— He extended a final thought for all those men and women who do not belong to any religion, but who “feel nevertheless that they are seeking truth, beauty and goodness.” He said they are “our precious allies in the commitment to defend human dignity, build peaceful coexistence among peoples and safeguard creation.”

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