I did not intend to follow Pope Francis’ visit to Israel and Palestine, but something I read in an article regarding statements he had made caught my eye. I began to look for more detailed, original sources, and found them at the official Vatican website. The first quotation here comes from Pope Francis’ meeting with the leaders of the Palestine, from May 25, 2014:
Mr President, you are known as a man of peace and a peacemaker. Our recent meeting in the Vatican and my presence today in Palestine attest to the good relations existing between the Holy See and the State of Palestine. I trust that these relations can further develop for the good of all. In this regard, I express my appreciation for the efforts being made to draft an agreement between the parties regarding various aspects of the life of the Catholic community in this country, with particular attention to religious freedom. Respect for this fundamental human right is, in fact, one of the essential conditions for peace, fraternity and harmony. It tells the world that it is possible and necessary to build harmony and understanding between different cultures and religions. It also testifies to the fact that, since the important things we share are so many, it is possible to find a means of serene, ordered and peaceful coexistence, accepting our differences and rejoicing that, as children of the one God, we are all brothers and sisters. [source; emphasis mine]
That same day, Pope Francis addressed Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, inviting them to pray together at the Vatican:
In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace. I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer.
All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers. All of us – especially those placed at the service of their respective peoples – have the duty to become instruments and artisans of peace, especially by our prayers.
Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment. The men and women of these lands, and of the entire world, all of them, ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace. [source; all emphases mine]
Let me make it clear I’m not against cooperation between various groups of people, be it religious, ethnic, racial, or national. I’m not against peace. I’m not against getting along. Do not misunderstand where my contention lies.
However, let’s speak about the serious spiritual implications of this. Pope Francis has asked Peres and Abbas, neither of whom worship Christ, to come to the Vatican and join him in prayer to God. What God, however, do Peres and Abbas worship? Peres worships a unitarian god, and not Christ, who is the Son of God within the Trinity; Peres is a Jewish individual who denies Christ as his Lord and Messiah. Meanwhile, Abbas is a Muslim who worships Allah, a supposed deity that taught his followers a number of things that either contradict or outright condemn Christianity. Pope Francis desires to pray together with them to God…and yet neither of them worship God!
Let me make it clear here that I am not against people praying according to their faiths. That is, if a Jew desires to pray to peace, let him pray for peace; if a Muslim desires to pray for peace, let him pray for peace. I do not believe they should be forbidden from practicing their religion. However, when it comes to cooperation, it ends at religion because it then becomes a question of who God is. Pope Francis seems to believe that all three of them can pray to God together; no they cannot, for they do not all worship the same God. Pope Francis seems to believe that they are all children of God, and brothers and sisters in faith; scripture, however, teaches that the children of God are those regenerated by God the Father to worship Christ (John 1:12-13).
Scripture teaches that any worship not offered to the true God is offered to demons (Deu 32:17; 1 Cor 10:20). Pope Francis has, in essence, asked two men to come to the Vatican and offer worship to demons. Some might protest that it is for a good cause (ie., peace), and yet scripture makes it clear such worship means nothing (1 Cor 10:19; Gal 4:8-9). A Jew or a Muslim can pray all day, but – unless they pray for repentance of their sins and confess Christ as their Lord, Savior, and King – it will ultimately mean absolutely nothing to God.
This form of syncretism (rather, the worship of various gods alongside the true God, or treating them all as one and the same) was the very thing that earned the people of ancient Israel continual condemnation throughout the days of the prophets. It was what earned so much condemnation by God against the people. It was likewise a problem which Christians have continually fought against since the days of the early believers…and yet Pope Francis (even if with good intentions) has invited this kind of syncretism to happen at the Vatican.
Last week, I wrote a post on how the Roman Catholicism’s teachings regarding Islam have changed over the centuries (one proof of Luther’s accusation that popes and councils have “frequently erred and contradicted themselves”). The bishops of the Council of Vienne (the Fifteenth Ecumenical Council to Roman Catholics, and therefore binding), who, in Decree 25, called Muhammad an “infidel” and ordered Christian princes “to remove this offence [of Islam] altogether from their territories,” would be shocked to hear Pope Francis calling Muslims (let alone unbelieving Jews) “children of God” and “brothers and sisters,” then inviting them to St. Peter’s in order to pray together with him, the supposed Vicar of Christ. However, this is (as I showed in the aforementioned post) the fruit of the past century, when Rome began to soften its language towards Islam and Muslims, so that it not only decreased any unnecessary intolerance, but likewise began to eat away at religious discernment regarding true and false worship of God.
Again, peace is a noble endeavor; tolerance between two groups is likewise a noble endeavor. However, what Pope Francis is doing is not only unbiblical in its presupposition, but in its execution as well.