Pope slams ‘childlike’ whims of powerful that start wars

Nov 3, 2022, 1:37 PM | Updated: Nov 4, 2022, 9:34 am

Pope Francis leaves the closing session of the "Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and west for Human...

Pope Francis leaves the closing session of the "Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and west for Human Coexistence", at the Al-Fida square at the Sakhir Royal palace, Bahrain, Friday, Nov. 4, 2022. Pope Francis is making the November 3-6 visit to participate in a government-sponsored conference on East-West dialogue and to minister to Bahrain's tiny Catholic community, part of his effort to pursue dialogue with the Muslim world. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — With Russia’s war in Ukraine raging, Pope Francis joined Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders on Friday in calling for the great religions to work together for peace, telling an interfaith summit that religion must never be used to justify violence and that faith leaders must oppose the “childlike” whims of the powerful to make war.

On his second day in the Gulf Arab kingdom of Bahrain, Francis closed out a conference on East-West dialogue sponsored by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and then met separately with Muslim leaders at the royal mosque.

It was his second such conference in as many months, following one in Kazakhstan, evidence of Francis’ core belief that moments of encounter among people of different faiths can help heal today’s conflicts and promote a more just and sustainable world.

Sitting around him in the Sakhir royal palace grounds were leading Muslim imams, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians and U.S. rabbis who have long engaged in interfaith dialogue. Speaker after speaker called for an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine and the start of peace negotiations. The Russian Orthodox Church, which sent an envoy to the conference, has strongly supported the Kremlin in its war and justified it on religious grounds.

Francis told the gathering that, while the world seems to be heading apart like two opposing seas, the mere presence of religious leaders together was evidence that they “intend to set sail on the same waters, choosing the route of encounter rather than that of confrontation.”

“It is a striking paradox that, while the majority of the world’s population is united in facing the same difficulties, suffering from grave food, ecological and pandemic crises, as well as an increasingly scandalous global injustice, a few potentates are caught up in a resolute struggle for partisan interests,” he said.

“We appear to be witnessing a dramatic and childlike scenario: in the garden of humanity, instead of cultivating our surroundings, we are playing instead with fire, missiles and bombs, weapons that bring sorrow and death, covering our common home with ashes and hatred,” he said.

King Hamad, for his part, urged a coherent effort to stop Russia’s war in Ukraine and promote peace negotiations, “for the good of all of humanity.”

The visit is Francis’ second to a Gulf Arab country, following his 2019 landmark trip to Abu Dhabi, where he signed a document promoting Catholic-Muslim fraternity with a leading Sunni cleric, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb. Al-Tayeb is the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning in Cairo, and has become Francis’ key partner in promoting greater Christian-Muslim understanding to promote peace and fight climate change.

Al-Tayeb joined Francis in Bahrain and was on hand last month in Kazakhstan, too. In his prepared remarks, he called Friday for an end to Russia’s war “to spare the lives of innocents who have no hand in this violent tragedy.”

Al-Tayeb also called for Sunni and Shiite Muslims to engage in a similar process of dialogue to try to heal their centuries of division, and added that Al-Azhar was prepared to host such an encounter. The Sunni-Shiite split within Islam is rooted in the question of who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad after his death in 632.

“Let us together chase away any talk of hate, provocation and excommunication and set aside ancient and modern conflict in all its forms and with all its negative offshoots,” he said. Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni monarchy that has been accused by human rights groups of systematic discrimination against its Shiite majority, charges the government rejects.

Later Friday, al-Tayeb met privately with Francis, who praised his opening to Shiites. “Today you were very courageous when you spoke about dialogue within Islam” the pope said.

They both then presided over a meeting at the royal mosque between the Vatican delegation and the Muslim Council of Elders, which began with a young boy chanting verses from the Quran and a young Christian girl reading a Bible verse. As some 20 outdoor air conditioners chilled the mosque’s courtyard, both Vatican and Muslim speakers listed environmental concerns and climate change as a primary concern for humanity.

To the imams gathered, Francis insisted that “the God of peace never brings about war, never incites hatred, never supports violence.”

Francis was also bring his message of dialogue to Bahrain’s Christian leaders by presiding over an ecumenical meeting and peace prayer at the Our Lady of Arabia Cathedral, the largest Catholic Church in the Gulf, which was inaugurated last year on land gifted to the church by Al Khalifa.

Francis opened his visit to Bahrain on Thursday by urging Bahrain authorities renounce the death penalty and ensure basic human rights are guaranteed for all citizens. It was a nod to Bahraini Shiite dissidents who say they have been harassed and detained, subject to torture and “sham trials,” with some stripped of their citizenship or sentenced to death for their political activities. The government denies discriminating against Shiites.

Francis raised the citizenship issue in his remarks Friday, albeit in general terms, stressing the need for countries to “establish in our societies the concept of full citizenship” and reject terms like minorities.

Francis, though, also aimed to highlight Bahrain’ tradition of religious tolerance: Unlike neighboring Saudi Arabia, where Christians cannot openly practice their faith, Bahrain is home to several Christian communities as well as a small Jewish community.

In his prepared remarks to the forum, U.S. Rabbi Marc Schneier, who has long worked to promote Jewish-Muslim understanding and serves as Al Khalifa’s special advisor on interfaith matters, praised Bahrain as a “role model in the Arab world for coexistence and tolerance of different faith communities.”


Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Image: A person wears a T-shirt with the names of Kristin Smith, Charity Lynn Perry, Joanna Speaks,...

Associated Press

Man probed in deaths of women in northwest Oregon indicted in 3 killings

A man who has been under investigation in the deaths of four women whose bodies were found across northwest Oregon has been indicted.

8 hours ago

Image: The headquarters for The Boeing Company can be seen in Arlington, Virginia, on Jan. 31, 2024...

Associated Press

Police conclude investigation into suicide of Boeing whistleblower

A former manager who raised safety questions about the aircraft maker and, later, was found dead took his own life, police said Friday.

15 hours ago

Image: Scottie Scheffler celebrates after a birdie on the 10th hole during the second round of the ...

Associated Press

No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler: From the course to jail and back after Friday arrest

Top-ranked golfer Scottie Scheffler was arrested after police say he dragged an officer while trying to get around a fatal accident Friday.

2 days ago

Photo: Seattle Times publisher and CEO Frank Blethen announced he will step down at the end of next...

Associated Press

Seattle Times CEO to step down after 4 decades in charge of family-owned paper

Seattle Times publisher and CEO Frank Blethen announced he will step down at the end of next year after four decades of leading the paper.

2 days ago

Image: Andy Jassy, Amazon president and CEO, attends an event on Aug. 15, 2022, in Culver City, Cal...

Associated Press

Comments from Amazon CEO Andy Jassy about unions violated federal law, NLRB judge rules

A federal judge ruled Amazon CEO Andy Jassy violated labor law by making certain anti-union comments during media interviews two years ago.

16 days ago

Image: Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court before his trial in New Yo...

Associated Press

Judge raises threat of jail as he holds Trump in contempt, fines him at trial

Former President Donald Trump was held in contempt of court at his trial Tuesday and fined $9,000 for repeatedly violating a gag order.

19 days ago

Pope slams ‘childlike’ whims of powerful that start wars