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Prayer For Peace - It Is Good That You Are Here or Scandal? | KFP Articles
Prayer For Peace - It Is Good That You Are Here or Scandal? PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 07 June 2014 21:09

Last week I wrote about the Pope's Amazing invitation to the Israeli and Palestinian Leaders to pray for peace at the Vatican.  There is no doubt that this is a tremendous moment in history, for the first time muslims, Jews and Catholics will offer prayers for peace in the Vatican.  The initiative is beautiful and has sparked many positive responses such as the ones on Fr. Rocky's post on facebook when he shared the news of the Pope's invitation to all of us to pray for peace. (See photo to left)  Of course, something so incredibley unprecedented brings with it many theological questions.  Is it heresy to allow Muslims to offer prayer on the sacred grounds of the Vatican?   To no surprise many Catholic Reactionaries, mostly traditionalists, are attacking this event as "heresy" because it supposedly violates the teaching of Pope Pius XI: "..it is clear that the Apostolic See cannot on any terms take part in their assemblies, nor is it anyway lawful for Catholics either to support or to work for such enterprises; for if they do so they will be giving countenance to a false Christianity, quite alien to the one Church of Christ."   First, lets understand that the prayer will be held in the Vatican Garden not a consecrated Church or Chapel.  Here's the text from the Muslim prayer that is causing the uproar:

 Oh God, to you all praise, O Lord, to you all praise, O Creator of the heavens and the earth, O You who know the unknown and the manifest, O Lord of everything and its sovereign, we testify that there is no god but You alone and You have no partner, we seek refuge in You from the evil in ourselves and the evil of Satan, his partners, his godlessness and his whispering, and we seek refuge in You from godlessness and want, and we seek refuge in You so that we do not bring evil upon ourselves or bring it upon anyone else.

At first glance I think to myself that there is nothing in the prayer specific to their God that can cause such offense.  The "You alone" can, in our mind, refer to the One God but three persons.  I commented to this effect at a popular blog where the comments had been taken over by folks that believe Pope Francis is very much in heresy and who question the legitimacy of VII.  In response I was accused of denying Christ and the Trinity and accused of acceptancing condemned syncretism.  That was a rash judgement but the prayer does deserve one more look.  Following the "You alone" is "You have no partner."  Looking at that I would say that there does appear to be a problem with the prayer but I don't believe it is so explicit there is any grave error by the Vatican allowing it to be read.  

Does it not occur that by allowing prayer by another faith one does not necessarily accept it or agree with it.  I'm not a theologian and patiently await some intelligent dialogue on the matter before I draw any conclusions but for the time being I believe this gesture is an amazing act of solidarity in our shared human nature, we are all children of God with the ultimate desire to know and love God.  

Elizabeth Scalia makes this point very well in her post on this issue:

At this gathering, in consenting to pray in their traditions, peacefully, and in the presence of others, they are communicating to each other what the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said was the most fundamental message that needs to be communicated and received, before all others, in the quest for sustained peace: “it is good that you exist.”

Not, “it is okay that you exist as long as you operate as I think you must.”

Not, “it is problematic that you exist but, I can fix you and make you acceptable enough.”

Simply, “it is good that you exist.”

With this message — being communicated through prayer, Jew to Muslim to Christian to Jew to Muslim — something is being formulated, poured out and put into place that has has gone missing up to now: the concrete assertion of a mutual humanity that is not here by accident, and is finally being seen and acknowledged. Seen not just as “other players” in a world of convenient labels and “thems” and “theys” but as God sees us and calls us to see each other: as broken, bespoken, beckoned and beloved.

The prayers of sincere Children of Abraham, made peaceably in each other’s presence, give global witness to “It is good that you exist”. And that is the simple, sturdy foundation upon which eventual peace may be constructed.

I agree with her sentiment.  What do you think?  

For full text of prayers go to the VATICAN WEB SITE


Here's the video of the invocation for peace in the Vatican Garden:



UPDATE - 6/10/14

In a post about the prayer meeting, focused on the choice of language for the Christian prayers, Rorate Caeli started with this sentiment:

We all pray that the symbolic initiative made by Pope Francis in bringing together the President of the State of Israel and the President of the Palestine National Authority to pray for peace will bear real fruit. We hope that this public and spiritual gesture will crack open the hardened cynicism and deep fatigue that lies in the way of peace between Israel and the Palestine National Authority.

This I believe is the substance of the message that was sent.  There is plenty of room for discussion and reasoned debate but the nature of the Islamic prayers, where there was a subtle reference to a non-Trinitarian God, provides little theological substance to negate the incredible benefit of joint prayer for peace, especially considering what a grave scandal of violence in the Holy Land.  In fact, this gesture is recognizes our shared human desire for peace and our shared desire to know and love God that are essential to building a culture of life that celibrates the goodness of human nature upon which the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity build.  

A fair and reasoned analysis will demonstrated the misuse and distortions of the VII teaching but not everything that has been brought to teh forefront since VI is a bad thing.  The Church has brought much needed catechesis on human nature, understood in Christological terms, that will help us understand gestures such as this prayer meeting.  A reasoned debate will do the Church much benefit.  Unfortunately, the debate is often driven by radical judgments and divisive thinking that exclude any real possibility of reasoned debate.  

At the prayer meeting, the Pope reminded us of the basic reason the event occurred:

“More than once we have been on the verge of peace, but the evil one, employing a variety of means, has succeeded in blocking it,” the pope said June 8 at an evening ceremony in the Vatican Gardens. “That is why we are here, because we know and we believe that we need the help of God.”

Fr. Longenecker's post hit the nail on the head; the prayer in the garden is not liturgical prayer together or an act of joint worship.  The Pope accomplished what I believe we Christians should seek to accomplish.  

 The Vatican authorities are careful to explain that being together for prayer is not the same thing as praying together. “Praying together” is something people of the same faith do. When we pray together we participate in the same liturgy, united in the same beliefs. The meeting for prayer between the Pope, Peres, and Abbas was very different. They were not praying together. They were together for services of prayer in their own traditions.
Abbas and Peres met Pope Francis at the Casa Santa Martha and then drove together to the Vatican Gardens where the service took place. Leaders of the three religions held prayers in chronological order: first a Jewish rabbi, then the Christians, then a Muslim imam led a service. After the prayers, reading and music the leaders planted an olive tree for peace, and met privately before departing.
For those who are nervous about “Muslim prayers in the Vatican” it should be pointed out that the prayer service is not taking place in a Catholic Church and it is a personal initiative of Pope Francis. This was not a large, public, global interfaith act of worship.


Pope Francis’s invitation to pray with Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres shows the openness that all Catholics should show to those of other religions. To affirm and accept others is not the same thing as condoning everything they do or validating everything they believe. Instead it shows the open attitude that Christ the Lord, remembering that he came not to condemn the world, but to seek and to save that which was lost.



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