VATICAN CITY (RNS) In message published on Friday (Aug. 2), Pope Francis took the rare step of personally expressing his “esteem and friendship” to the world’s Muslims as they prepare to celebrate the end of the Ramadan fast.

Pope Francis waves from the pope-mobile during his inauguration Mass at St. Peter's Square on Tuesday (March 19) at the Vatican. World leaders flew in for Pope Francis' inauguration Mass in St. Peter's Square on Tuesday where Latin America's first pontiff will receive the formal symbols of papal power.  RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

Pope Francis waves from the pope-mobile during his inauguration Mass at St. Peter’s Square on Tuesday (March 19) at the Vatican. World leaders flew in for Pope Francis’ inauguration Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Tuesday where Latin America’s first pontiff will receive the formal symbols of papal power. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini


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While it is a long-established Vatican practice to send messages to the world’s religious leaders on their major holy days, those greetings are usually signed by the Vatican’s department for interfaith dialogue.

In his message, Francis explains that in the first year of his papacy he wanted to personally greet Muslims, “especially those who are religious leaders.”

Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had fraught relations with Muslims. In a 2006 speech he quoted a Byzantine emperor who said Muhammad had only brought “evil and inhuman” things to the world, sparking a worldwide crisis in Christian-Muslim relations.

In subsequent years, he worked hard to mend ties with Muslims and visited three mosques. But he never fully succeeded in dispelling mistrust among Muslim religious leaders.

Since the beginning of his pontificate, Francis has stressed that he places a high value on dialogue with other religions.

In one of his first public speeches, on March 22, he announced he wanted to “intensify dialogue among the various religions,” adding: “And I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam.”

In his Friday Ramadan message, Francis highlighted the importance of educating Muslim and Christian youth to respect each other’s religion.

“We have to bring up our young people to think and speak respectfully of other religions and their followers, and to avoid ridiculing or denigrating their convictions and practices,” he wrote.

The pope also said that “particular respect” must be given “to religious leaders and to places of worship.” “How painful are attacks on one or other of these!” he added.

Francis’ move, while rare, is not unprecedented. Pope John Paul II in 1991 chose to pen the Ramadan message himself as a sign of solidarity with Muslims in the wake of the Gulf War.

6 Comments

  1. Most people love division and find their identities in hurting others in acts of complete ignorance. The Pope is very honorable, in my eyes, in trying to bridge gaps between groups when I live amongst many who prefer to create more issues. Perhaps grown-ups will one day find their true identity comes from knowing their own self and not found in the target of the day for their group.

  2. He should instead follow the example of Jesus Christ, God’s son, who preached the good news of God’s kingdom or heavenly government as the only “hope” for mankind.

  3. Father Frank Ivey OFM, M.Div., M.S.W.

    Amen, Amen! Thank God for Pope Francis! He shows an acute awareness of both pastoral and doctrinal issues with the other great religions of the world.
    It is exactly what Jesus would do in today’s world. (Which is filled with hate, distrust, and anger by all sides and peoples! Catholic, Orthodox, Christian, Jewish peoples, Muslins, and many others.)
    We are all equally God’s People!

    Fr. Frank

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