Pope John Paul II recently visited the United States following his five-day stay in Mexico. During his 30-hour stop in St. Louis, Missouri, the pope spoke to 20,000 youth during an evening rally, conducted a morning mass for over 100,000 Catholics and led an interfaith prayer service at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. During his visit, the pope not only expressed his desire for "Christian" unity and for the eventual unity of all religions, but he also declared his complete commitment to interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Upon arriving in St. Louis, the pope said, "I express my friendship and esteem for my fellow Christians, for the Jewish community in America, for our Muslim brothers and sisters. I express my cordial respect for people of all religions and for every person of good will." Certainly every believer should respect all people, regardless of their cultural, racial or religious background. However, the following quotes by the pope and the fact that he called Muslims his "brothers and sisters" reveal that he desires spiritual, ecumenical unity. During the pope's interfaith prayer gathering, which began with the reading of Scripture by Rabbi Robert Jacobs (this was the first time a rabbi had taken part in a papal service anywhere in the world), the pope told his audience:
Our gracious host, Archbishop Rigali, has invited to this Evening Prayer representatives of many different religious groups and sectors of civil society.
I am particularly pleased that distinguished members of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities have joined the Catholic community of St. Louis in this Evening Prayer. With hope and confidence let us continue to work together to realize the Lord's desire: "That they may all be one ... that the world may believe" (Jn. 17:21). My friendship and esteem go also to those of all other religious traditions. In particular I recall my long association with members of the Jewish faith, and my meetings in many parts of the world with my Muslim brothers and sisters. Today, divine Providence has brought us all together and enabled us to pray: "O God, let all the nations praise you !" May this prayer signify our shared commitment to ever greater understanding and cooperation.
Among those who attended the interfaith meeting was John Anderson, pastor of the Third Baptist Church in St. Louis. According to the New York Times, Anderson is president of the Interfaith Partnership of Metropolitan St. Louis (which includes Christians, Jews, Muslims and Baha'is). In his latest interfaith newsletter, Anderson said: "Instead of marveling at the fact that Providence allows such a great variety of religions, we should be amazed at the number of common elements found within them." Anderson's Third Baptist Church is affiliated with both the Southern Baptist Convention and the American Baptist Churches, U. S. A.
Prior to his departure, the pope once again reiterated his ecumenical desire: "The welcome extended to me by my fellow Christians and by the members of other religious communities has been most gracious. I hope you will accept my sincere thanks and the assurance of my friendship in the cause of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue and cooperation."
This same cry for the ecumenical unity
of all religions is being reiterated by every interfaith group,
including the renowned National Council of Churches and World
Council of Churches. The Bible-obeying Fundamentalist should "honor
all men," that is, show respect to all men as individuals,
but he should not tolerate a false gospel and ecumenical unity
at the expense of truth.
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