acceptance

On my way to church this morning, I heard a report on NPR about the fiftieth anniversary of the Vatican II document “Nostra Aetate” which was a declaration on the relationship of the Catholic Church with non-Christian religions. The report also reviewed the horrible treatment that the Catholic church had inflicted on other faiths, especially the Jewish people.

I am very grateful to have been born at a time when I do not remember the church being against other people because of their religious beliefs or lack of belief.  It saddens and upsets me that not all Catholics have accepted this now fifty-year-old teaching. This gives the impression that Catholics are still condemning others for not being Catholic or Christian, even though most of us do not. Rather, we accept all people of good will as together we strive for greater love and peace in the world.

One of my favorite things about Francis is that he shows this attitude to the world. He regularly meets with people of diverse faith traditions, agnostics, and atheists. He often prays in silence in settings that include people of many traditions so that he does not seem to be pushing Catholic prayer onto others. When he spoke in Washington on his recent trip to the United States, he asked the crowd and television viewers to pray for him or, if prayer was not part of their own belief system, to send positive thoughts.

People around the world recognize Francis as a spiritual leader, not just a Catholic leader, because he does care about every person and, as he terms it, “our common home.” ¬†Although he was brought up in the pre-Vatican II church, he fully embraces and lives the council’s messages.

The message is needed now more than ever. There is so much to do to improve the lives of people and the planet. We, all people of good will, need to move forward together.

Francis at Ground Zero

I wanted to watch Pope Francis’s address to the United Nations General Assembly this morning, but, due to the sudden news of House Speaker John Boehner’s impending resignation, part of the coverage of the speech was pre-empted. The part of the speech that I was able to hear was totally in keeping with what Francis has been saying around the world about overcoming poverty, upholding the common good, about integral ecology, justice, and peace.

After leaving the United Nations, Francis traveled to the World Trade Center 9/11 memorial. After visiting the outdoor memorial and meeting with family members of those who lost their lives that day, there was a stunning multi-religious prayer service in the underground museum of the memorial.

Francis joined an arc of New York City religious leaders, reflecting in their persons and their traditional religious dress the huge diversity of the city and of the United States as a whole. There were prayers and chants on the theme of peace from the Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, and Christian traditions in several languages, often with translations offered. After a stunning prayer for the dead sung in Hebrew, the Pope spoke in Spanish, ending with a plea for peace and a moment of silence for each to offer their own prayers or thoughts in accord with their own beliefs.

This was followed by the Young People’s Chorus of New York City singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” The sound of their young voices, coupled with the visual impact of their diversity, brought tears to my eyes, especially when the camera zoomed in on two of the singers holding hands.

It all made me believe that peace is possible.

Peace is essential.