At the end of last week, the New York Times published a column by Mark Oppenheimer on the identity of God which included a radical statement on the nature of Jesus Christ attributed to Pope Francis …
Most of the time, variations on “We all pray to the same god” are uttered as feel-good pieties by politicians urging us all to get along. For example, in 2003, President George W. Bush, referring to Muslims and Christians, said that “we worship the same god.”
Clergy members, too, are fond of such constructions, which serve a role in interfaith dialogue. Last year, Pope Francis offered a version, saying that “Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Allah” are “all names employed to describe an entity that is distinctly the same across the world.”
If during the past several years you have become a tad skeptical about mainstream media reporting on short quotes from Pope Francis, in this case you are wholly justified, because the quote is not real.
National Report is a news and political satire web publication, which may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. All news articles contained within National Report are fiction, and presumably fake news. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental….
According to Snopes.com, National Report is indeed the primary source of the quoted material, but perhaps the statement that “any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental” led a columnist for the Times to think that National Report belonged to the same genre he was working in.
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Since we have been given the opportunity (perhaps by the monotheistic God, working with us humans in strange ways), let’s take a few moments to discuss the actual teaching of the Catholic Church on this subject, but using of reliable sources, of course. In several Vatican II documents, the Church has indeed expressed that the Creator the universe, God the Father almighty, is also the God of some non-Christian religions. For example, section 16 of Lumen Gentium (the “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”) states that…
Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God….the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.
This idea is reiterated in section 3 of Nostra Aetate (“Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions”)…
The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet.
However, the worship by different religions of the one God who created the universe does not imply — as the Times has accidentally suggested — that the three persons of the Trinity are commutable. Within Christian theology, it cannot be said that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all “distinctly the same”, and that truth cannot be changed by using different names to describe the Creator.
I will go out on a limb and suggest that Pope Francis is aware of this.