Many Catholics today, or for that matter, members of Orthodox churches and ecclesiastical communities who equally choose to identify themselves as Christians — this includes Muslim converts — have been quite disillusioned, if not misled, by the interreligious meetings with Islamic clerics promoted by Pope Francis. The confusion has been on the pretension that the Christian faith is on par with Islam. Such ambiguity was further incited when the Bishop of Rome co-signed with co-signed with Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University — the oldest and most prestigious university in the Sunni Islamic world — the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together during his visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this past February when he partook of the “International Interfaith Meeting on Human Fraternity.” The Vatican, together with the UAE, notwithstanding the country’s violation of human rights, has now created a special committee to draw out the principles contained in the controversial Abu Dhabi document, signed by Francis and el-Tayeb — who hailed Francis as the defender of Islam — that asserts that “God wills a plurality of religions just as He wills a plurality of colors, sexes, races, and languages.”
The text was subsequently criticized by prominent theologians for “devaluing the person of Jesus” and “undermining the gospel itself” since it seemed to propose that God willed the existence of a plurality of religions just as He wills a plurality of sexes, races, and languages, rather than willing that all people find their salvation in Jesus Christ. At a later date, the pope seemed to walk back that passage, but he never requested to have it amended and the entire statement reads today just as it did last February. The joint declaration will now be the foundation and reference point for a committee set up for its implementation.
In a statement this past Monday, Pope Francis said he was pleased that the joint document, titled Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, would become the object of study and a font for new initiatives in interreligious dialogue. “Although sadly evil, hatred and division often make news, there is a hidden sea of goodness that is growing and leads us to hope in dialogue, reciprocal knowledge and the possibility of building, together with the followers of other religions and all men and women of good will, a world of fraternity and peace,” Francis said in his communiqué.
Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, head of the Vatican Council for Interreligious Dialogue and also part of the UAE committee, was asked in an interview with Vatican News about the religion of Islam, specifically “if a concrete application of the declaration could be a first step in ending this ‘clash of civilizations’ seen in mass terrorist attacks such as happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States.” Rather than address the fundamental aim of normative Islam to conquer and Islamize society — through jihad, deception, casting terror into the hearts of disbelievers, etc. — Ayuso Guixot simply answered “that if the concepts of the declaration are put into action, they will lead to peace.” And that “prayer, dialogue, respect and solidarity are the only winning weapons against terrorism, fundamentalism and every type of war and violence.”
At the core of Ayuso Guixot’s reasoning is blaming others for the ills of Islam worldwide. He does this by suggesting that if only there were more Christian prayer, dialogue, respect, and solidarity with Islamic leaders, then there would be world peace, and thus an end to the global jihad, an end to the rape of infidels, an end to Christian persecution. Such position, which resembles that of so many other Western leaders, does not take into account the fact that the jihad has been raging for 1,400 years and is fully backed up by Islamic doctrine. In other words, aside of further misleading the Christian faithful, this new approach will not make the violence disappear just because Christians are friendly to Muslims.
When we claim that Christianity and Islam are similar to one another, as Francis comes off, what we essentially do is give analytical priority to the classification of “religion” as constituted by the historical experiences of both Western and Eastern Europe. We can then conclude that there is a categorical equality in value between them that makes it significantly important to speak of Islam in paradigmatic terms of Christianity. If this is the case, we forbear to give sufficient attention to whether there are inherent, fundamental, or categorical qualities with regard to Christianity that render it essentially different from Islam, different to the point that it so severely diminishes the utility of the analytical classification of religion as a meaningful analysis for Christianity or any other religious entity. For example, with regard to the matter of equality between a man and a woman, Christian doctrine embraces the natural law principle that both are equal. In Islam, the supremacy of the religious law denies this equality, to say nothing of the murders, raids, and even pedophilia of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Catholic Church has come a long way since the days of Pope Callixtus III, who vowed in 1455 to “exalt the true Faith, and to extirpate the diabolical sect of the reprobate and faithless Mahomet [sic] in the East.” It serves us all to recall the clear teaching by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Mortalium Animos (1928) in which the pope said: “For which reason conventions, meetings and addresses are frequently arranged by these persons, at which a large number of listeners are present, and at which all without distinction are invited to join in the discussion, both infidels of every kind, and Christians… Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy… Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it…” In other words, the shepherds of the Church should focus more on carrying out the Lord’s last command before He returned to the Father: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
N.B. The certain facts as well as the quotes from Pope Francis and Ayuso Guixot are taken from Christine Douglass-Williams’ article Vatican creates special committee to promote document on dialogue with Islam accused of “devaluing person of Jesus” posted by Jihad Watch on August 29, 2019.