14 February 2019, The Tablet

The Pope and religious diversity

The Pope and religious diversity

Pope Francis embraces Ahmed el-Tayeb after signing the document in Abu Dhabi
PA/Eissa Al Hammadi/Ministry of Presidential Affairs/dpa


The landmark declaration, signed by Francis in Abu Dhabi, caused disquiet in some quarters for affirming religious pluralism, but it is both inspirational and true to Catholic teaching

The document jointly signed earlier this month by the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, and Pope Francis has caused disquiet in some quarters. “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,” it declares.

Some Catholic commentators were offended by this use of “pluralism” and claimed that the idea that God “willed” the diversity of religions was contrary to Catholic teaching.

On his flight home from Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis told reporters: “I want to restate this clearly. From the Catholic point of view, the document does not deviate one millimetre from the Second Vatican Council.”

He is dead right. Accepting that the diversity of religions is willed by God conforms to the council’s teaching found not only in the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-Christian religions (Nostra Aetate), but also in other documents (notably, but not exclusively, in Lumen Gentium, Ad Gentes, and Gaudium et Spes). And accepting religious diversity as willed by God also corresponds to the teaching of Pope St John Paul II, as well as authoritative Catholic theologians.

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