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Jewish and Muslim leaders to join Pope's Holy Land trip

May 15, 2014

A rabbi and a Muslim leader will join Pope Francis on his upcoming trip to the Holy Land, the first time an official papal delegation has included members of other faiths, the Vatican said Thursday.

From news.msn.com

OK - at face value, this isn’t necessarily bad.

After all - Paul talked to all sorts of people -
and even wanted to get to Rome - the seat of the government that claimed deity for Caesar -
not to mention the one that he knew would kill him.

Jesus Himself would also talk to anyone -
including the Jewish leaders who he knew would kill Him.

So - why not the pope - the leader of the Catholic church?

Lombardi (Vatican spokesperson, the Rev. Federico Lombardi) said that service would in itself be "extraordinarily historic" given that the three main Christian communities that share the church — Greek-Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic — will pray together at the same time.

Notice - the Muslim leader will not be at the prayer portion of the trip.

Francis' two longtime friends and collaborators from his days as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, a leader of Argentina's Islamic community, are on the official delegation for the May 24-26 trip to Jordan, the West Bank and Israel.

Notice - long time … collaborators.

But - apparently not collaborating on prayer.

Some background on Skorka and Abboud comes from EWTN (Global Catholic Television Network) -

Abboud is director of the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue, in Buenos Aires, and is a former secretary-general of the Islamic Center of Argentina. He has also worked in the slums of Buenos Aires.

The interreligious institute was founded along with Daniel Goldam, a rabbi, and Fr. Guillermo Marco, former spokesman of the Buenos Aires archdiocese.

"This initiative is part of our national identity, a fruit that was eagerly cultivated by a number of leaders and religious leaders thanks to the key impulse given by the then cardinal Bergoglio to create spaces in which a culture of encounter could be built," Abboud told Italian daily La Stampa May 3.

Skorka is rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires, and often met to converse with Bergoglio; those meetings produced the book "On Heaven and Earth," a record of their dialogue.

He visited Pope Francis in June at Castel Gandolfo, together with participants in a Jewish-Christian dialogue organized by the Focolare Movement; and also in January.

"Our idea is to make a contribution to what dialogue means, to what spirituality means, and what the things of the soul mean, as well as the search for God," Skorka told La Stampa Jan. 17.

One can’t help but wonder what these three men of “God” are going to talk about.

One of them is waiting for the Son of God to come -
one of them is waiting for the Son of God to come again (since He’s already been here once) -
and the other one says there is no Son of God.

In order - that would be -
Rabbi Abraham Skorka
Pope Francis (previously known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio)
Omar Abboud.

Rabbi Skorka and Pope Francis believe in the same God (the Father at least).
Rabbi Skorka and Pope Francis also believe that there is a Son of God - but disagree on who He is.

Omar Abboud, however - believes the following - (from the Quran)

[2:62] Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.

[6:101] The Initiator of the heavens and the earth. How can He have a son, when He never had a mate? He created all things, and He is fully aware of all things.

The Gross Blasphemy

[10:68] They said, "GOD has begotten a son!" Be He glorified. He is the Most Rich. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth. You have no proof to support such a blasphemy. Are you saying about GOD what you do not know? [10:69] Proclaim: "Those who fabricate lies about GOD will never succeed." [10:70] They get their temporary share in this world, then to us is their ultimate return, then we commit them to severe retribution for their disbelieving.

[17:111] And proclaim: "Praise be to GOD, who has never begotten a son, nor does He have a partner in His kingship, nor does He need any ally out of weakness," and magnify Him constantly.

You may have noticed there’s a conflict in these statements.
The first one says that Christians have nothing to fear.

Whether this was based on a misunderstanding of Christianity -
or whether the author himself at one point tried to woo Jews and Christians and then responded when they rejected him (and then he set out to conquer them) -
there was an obvious change of heart towards Christians.

In [2:62] - Christians were to get our recompense from the Lord and have nothing to fear.

In [10:68] - Christians are perpetrators of gross blasphemy -
we will get our temporary share in this world -
we will never succeed -
and we will receive severe retribution.

That’s quite a change in beliefs.

It would be fascinating to hear what Aboud’s response would be if Pope Francis were to ask about this!

Unfortunately -
that’s not likely to happen.

As we learn in an article from Australia News -

"He's the one who opened the cathedral of Buenos Aires for interfaith ceremonies, like when we prayed for peace. He's not one of those who waits for you to call them to participate in these events — he promotes them," said Avruj, who met Bergoglio after both leaders launched projects in the same slum in a gritty area of southern Buenos Aires.

Bergoglio brought leaders of the Jewish, Muslim, evangelical and Orthodox Christian faiths into the Metropolitan Cathedral to pray for peace in the Middle East last November. "Everything is lost with war, everything is gained through peace," Bergoglio said then. "With peace wins victory and respect."

The archbishop also welcomed Jews for a joint service on the 74th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night in 1938 when nearly 200 synagogues were destroyed, Jewish shops were looted and tens of thousands of Jews were sent to be exterminated in Adolf Hitler's Germany.

And he also sponsored interfaith prayers after Pope Benedict XVI offended Muslims in 2006 by quoting a Byzantine emperor as saying some of the Prophet Muhammad's teachings were "evil and inhuman."

That time, rather than criticize Benedict directly, Bergoglio let a lower-ranking priest lead a service in which he himself did not participate. But leaders of other religions were impressed nonetheless.

So - as Bishop - now-Pope Francis was unwilling to tell it like it is -
unlike his predecessor Benedict XVI.

This brings up the obvious question -
What would Jesus do?

Well - for one thing -
I don’t see Jesus doing what Bergoglio did as Bishop -

…rather than criticize Benedict directly, Bergoglio let a lower-ranking priest lead a service in which he himself did not participate…

For instance -

We see in Matthew 12:22-27 how Jesus responded when the Jewish leaders challenged Him -

Jesus and Beelzebub

Mt 12:22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.  23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”

Mt 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

Mt 12:25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.  26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?  27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.  28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Mt 12:29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.

Mt 12:30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.  31 And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Mt 12:33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.  34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.  35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.  36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Calling the Pharisees a brood of vipers and you who are evil is hardly shying away from trouble.

And then there’s this from Matthew 16:5-12 -

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

Mt 16:5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Mt 16:7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

Mt 16:8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Telling his followers to be wary of what their own Jewish leaders tell them isn’t shying away from trouble either.

Interfaith dialogue itself isn’t a bad thing.

But it would certainly seem to have the possibility of turning into a bad thing.

When people look at this - what will they think?

But - before answering this question -
does it even matter what people think?
Does three people who <should> have some pretty strong disagreements between themselves getting together for an interfaith dialogue have any impact on people?

Well - let’s look at what Paul has to say about behavior among believers and non-believers from 1 Co 10:23-11:1 -

The Believer’s Freedom

1Co 10:23 “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive.  24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

1Co 10:25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience,  26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

1Co 10:27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.  28 But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake—  29 the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?  30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

1Co 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—  33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.  1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Apparently it does matter -

Co 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—  33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.  1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Paul is urging us to follow his example - as he followed Christ’s example.

These three people - Francis, Skorka and Abboud - getting together isn’t a problem in and of itself.
But - it could be if people are made to stumble because of what they are doing -
or as what they are perceived to be doing.

If they come out and say they have much in common -
like that they believe in the same “God” -
there has to be a problem when Muslims clearly do not believe in the God of Jews and Christians.

The assumption from an interfaith dialogue is that there’s a search for common ground.

What kind of common ground they find will be most interesting.

Oh yeah - there’s one other possibility -
one that Paul and Jesus would also be very much in favor of -

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

And - there’s yet another example - this one for Skorka and Abboud -

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

Jn 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council.  2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jn 3:3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’”

Jn 3:4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jn 3:5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’  8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Jn 3:9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

Jn 3:10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?  11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.  12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?  13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.  14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,  15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

What will happen?

Time will tell.

In the mean time -

What’s the condition of your faith?

Which God do you believe in?