Pope again stresses 'dialogue' with other religions as video depicts all as equal

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Pope Francis during his September 2015 visit to Philadelphia. | REUTERS/Carlos Barria

ROME (Christian Examiner) – The leader of Catholics worldwide believes most people on the planet have two things in common – a belief in "God" and faith in love to overcome differences of belief.

That is why, in a new video urging prayer for interfaith understanding, Pope Francis calls for greater religious dialogue among those worldwide "who declare themselves believers."

The video, however, features four of the pontiff's friends from Argentina who are of different faiths, among them a Buddhist, a Jew, a Catholic, and a Muslim, raising the question of what or who the pontiff believes is authentically God.

In the video, Lama Rinchen Kandro claims, "I have confidence in the Buddha."

Daniel Goldman, a rabbi, states, "I believe in God."

"I believe in Jesus Christ," Catholic priest Guillermo Marcó says.

He is followed by Islamic cleric Omar Abboud, who says, "I believe in God, Allah."

The video was sponsored by the Jesuit prayer network known as the Apostleship of Prayer. According to the Catholic News Agency, the segment – only a minute-and-a-half in length – is the first time the pontiff's monthly prayer "intention" has been filmed.

"Many think differently, feel differently, seeking God or meeting God in different ways," Francis says as the video shows him receiving a Buddha statue and meeting with a Greek Orthodox priest. "In this crowd, in this range of religions, there is only one certainty we have for all: we are all children of God."

After the pontiff's declaration that all people are the children of God, contrary to the Protestant understanding that only those saved in Christ are God's children, the same four religious leaders repeat the phrase, "I believe in love."

"I hope you will spread my prayer request this month. ... That sincere dialogue among men and women of different faiths may produce the fruits of peace and justice. I have confidence in your prayers," Francis says at the conclusion of the video.

The final images of the video show the religious leaders' hands holding a Jewish menorah, a Buddha statue, Islamic prayer beads (subha), and last but not least, a statue of the baby Jesus.

Critics of Pope Francis have claimed since 2013 that the pontiff has opened the church's doors to all religions. Newspapers reported then that Francis said atheists would go to heaven if they do good and even if they don't believe in Jesus Christ. The statement came from an interview the pope did with the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica.

In the interview, Pope Francis, "You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don't believe and who don't seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is a fundamental thing – that God's mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience."

In another instance, he said that all men were created in God's image and he commands all men to do good for others.

If someone objects that the person doing good is outside of the Catholic Church, it is of little concern, Francis said, because God "redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ; all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! 'Father, the atheists? Even the atheists. Everyone!' We must meet one another doing good. 'But I don't believe, Father, I am an atheist! But do good; we will meet one another there."

Catholics massaged that statement, saying Pope Francis was teaching nothing new and that newspapers had failed to understand the difference between "redemption" and "salvation." In Catholic doctrine, especially since Vatican II, the church has taught that Christ died to universally redeem humanity. The individual, however, can reject that salvation, according to Catholic doctrine.