Francis’s interreligious friendships, Iraq’s troubles

Two new items on the homepage: James L. Fredericks looks at Francis’s approach to interreligious dialogue, while the editors comment on the conflict in Iraq and the problems it poses for President Obama.

From “Francis’s Interreligious Friendships”:

[W]hat does Francis think about interreligious dialogue as such? My view of the matter is this: the pope thinks of dialogue with other religious believers more in terms of friendships than formal meetings. This does not mean that he has little interest in theological exchanges. In fact, [Rabbi Abraham] Skorka has said recently that their conversations will move toward more theological issues in the future. My point is that, for Francis, interreligious friendships are more the basis for dialogue than its by-product. Remember, for Bergoglio and Skorka, soccer jokes and lunches came first. Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George captured Francis’s view succinctly in an interview with the Tribune, "Once you have the relationship, then the ideas make sense. Otherwise, it's a debating society. So you don't start with the idea. You start with a person and relationship. The pope is reminding us of this." This means that Francis approaches dialogue in way that differs significantly from that of John Paul II. …

Read the whole thing here.

From “Back to Iraq?”:

One of the hallmarks of Obama’s presidency has been his reluctance to send U.S. troops into combat if there is no clear-cut and realistic objective. He was elected in part to wind down two of the longest wars in American history, a promise he has largely kept. The current situation in Iraq, however, may yet pull the United States back into that country, and thus threatens to undermine Obama’s efforts to reorient American foreign policy.

At a June 19 press conference, Obama stressed that long-term Iraqi stability can come only through political reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites. He pledged that American combat troops would not return to Iraq. But he also announced that he would send three hundred “advisers”—reportedly Navy SEALs and Army Rangers—to assist the Iraqi military. “We will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it,” Obama explained. That may sound bellicose, but the president is being realistic. ISIS may not be poised to launch “the next 9/11,” but it is well armed and well funded—and its ranks are growing. If it establishes a stronghold in an ungovernable part of Iraq, the United States will have to watch carefully. Surely the task of guarding America’s vital interests is better handled by its enormous intelligence and security apparatus than by launching another invasion in the Middle East.

Read the whole thing here.

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