Pope in Assisi: Preaches 'true' religion, welcomes agnostics

Pope Benedict XVI told representatives of the world's religions - as well as non-believers - gathered today in Assisi that all faiths must continue to "purify" themselves of any tendency to violence and terrorism, and that goes for the Catholic Church as well:

"It is the task of all who bear responsibility for the Christian faith to purify the religion of Christians again and again from its very heart, so that it truly serves as an instrument of God's peace in the world, despite the fallibility of humans."

It's a strong and interesting address, IMHO. The pontiff also pointed to the "denial of God" as a cause of "violence that knows no bounds," but perhaps his most interesting comments, to me, were in his welcome to agnostics, who he said "ask questions of both sides" and are "pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace."The interfaith gathering with some 300 other believers and a few agnostics comes 25 years after the late John Paul II launched the first international prayer meeting for peace in the birthplace of St. Francis.Benedict was not a fan of the way that first encounter unfolded, especially with its interreligious optics, and he made sure there would be no joint prayer at this event. Just a joint "pilgrimage."He even pledged to a friend to "do everything I can to make a syncretistic or relativistic interpretation of the event impossible," and to make sure everyone knows that the Catholic Church is the only true path to salvation.I doubt that will be enough to please the Traditionalists of the SSPX, and I'm not sure the pope's efforts are enough to overshadow the interreligious optics of this event, either. Or the content of his address today.

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.

Also by this author
Obama's commencement address

Please email comments to letters@commonwealmagazine.org and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads

Politics
Culture
Culture
Books
Collections