The 4- day “14th Conference of Diocesan Priests of India” from 5-8 April at St .Joseph Vaz Spiritual Renewal Centre –Old Goa saw the participation of 13 Bishops and 275 priests from 131 diocesan societies across India. At the 4-Day conclave the delegates discussed the contribution of Pope Francis to world peace and various social issues and religious tolerance .
Jb. Asif Hussain ,Secretary Jamaat-e-islami Hind-Goa was invited as a guest speaker for the session on 6th April which was devoted to the theme “ Pope Francis – An Ambassador of Peace in Nature, Humanity and World. In address he stated that the Quran lays foundation and orients the Muslim worlds approach and relation towards Christians.
He said the Quran refers to the Christians and Jews as the People of the Book. He quoted the verses of the Quran that builds a positive outlook among Muslims towards the Christian community. He said both the communities share many commonalities such as oneness of God, divine revelation, day of judgement , life after death ,etc.
Speaking on theme he appreciated the initiative taken by the Pope Francis to reach out to the non-catholic communities . He said unlike Pope Urban II who was the first Pope to call for the Crusades against Muslims and his immediate predecessor Pope Benedict ,who at his “Regensburg Lecture” upset the Muslim world, Pope Francis initiated constructive steps to build bridges of understanding between communities, especially with Islam. Pope Francis he said was the first Pope to send a personally signed Ramzan greetings to the Muslims of the world unlike the previous practice of Popes who sent greetings through their representative.
His visit to the Blue Mosque inTurkey and his meetings with Muslim leaders from turkey sent a positive message. Pope Francis he said was also known as “Bishop of the slums” in Buenos Aires where he worked for the poor and needy of the society. He is appreciated for the emphasis on simplicity of life by setting an example himself when he opted for a modest vehicle and home.
“What sets him apart from the earlier Popes is his efforts to change the church from within by asking the men of the church to focus not on themselves but on the people and their issues. The statements and writings of the Pope reflect his dislike for the current financial and banking system which has failed the people.
His reference to Capitalism as the new age idolatry reminds us of the Jesus Christ ( A.S) overturning the tables of the moneylenders in the temple. In his letter to G-8 summit leaders he told them that money should be used to serve people and not rule over them”, he said. He added that the pressure exerted by imperialism to rid the society of god consciousness needs to be resisted by all the religious leaders.
Mr. Asif Hussain went on to address the gathering and said the few statements by the Pope Francis on LGBT has been controversial and confusing. Pope Francis said that God doesn’t condemn LGBT individuals in sept 2013 and later in march 2014 he suggested the church could be open to civil unions. Such statements were not only catholically incorrect but also contradicted the verses in the bible.
Quoting a few verses from the bible and he specifically referred to verses from Leviticus which is “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads”. He said such statements will only lead to the breaching of the last citadel of a God-conscious society i.e the institution of family.
He reminded the gathering the stand of Pope Benedict XVI who had suggested that gay marriage was a threat to global peace. He said we should not succumb to the pressure of the “Corporate Strategies” to infuse nudity , vulgarity and licentious behavior into the society.
In his parting words he expressed his desire that the priests have a crucial role to play at addressing the issue of “Islamophobia”. He said the Muslims are reasonably well informed of the Christian belief but many from the Christian community are unaware of the teachings of Islam and have many misconceptions about Islamic beliefs , practices and traditions due to the propaganda war unleashed by the capitalistic forces.
He said the initiative of Pope Francis to have a special dialogue with Islam can be realized when the priests play an important role in sensitizing the Christian community of the common heritage and father figure in Abraham shared by all the monotheistic faith.