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Monday, 4 September 2006

Pope Benedict on Assisi, syncretism and the message of St Francis

Sandro Magister on his Italian L'Espresso Blog reports on Pope Benedict's message to Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the prayer meeting at Assisi held by Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict said [my translation]
In order not to equivocate on the idea which, in 1986, John Paul II wished to realise, and which, in his own words, has come to be recognised as 'the spirit of Assisi', it is important not to forget the efforts that have been made in the past to ensure that the inter-religious encounter of prayer should not be open to syncretistic interpretations, founded on an relativistic conception [...] It is necessary to avoid inopportune confusions. Even when we have come together for to pray for peace, the prayer must unfold according to those distinct journeys that are proper to the various religions.
He also spoke of the danger of betraying the true teaching of St Francis:
The witness which he gave in his own time makes it a natural point of reference for those who today cultivate the ideal of peace, of respect for nature, of dialogue between persons, between religions and cultures. Nevertheless, it is important to remember, if one does not with to betray his message, that it was the radical choice of Christ that furnished him with the keys of understanding of fraternity to which all men are called, and to which also inanimate creatures - from 'brother sun' to 'sister mooon' - in a certain way participate.
This does seem to be an implicit criticism of previous initiatives that have led to some confusion and criticism on the grounds of Catholics not being clear about their belief in the unique salvific power of Christ.
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