He has taken up the struggle led by his predecessors, and added in some more.
Just a year after the publication of Fratelli tutti – Pope Francis’ encyclical plea for “universal brotherhood and social friendship” – the pontiff marked the occasion with one of the most intense sequences of interreligious dialogue of his pontificate.
From October 4 to 7, 2021, the Pontiff met privately with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayyeb; the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I; the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby; as well as Metropolitan Hilarion, representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Rome. In recent years, all of them have become regulars at the Apostolic Palace.
The head of the Catholic Church also participated with these leaders and more in three interreligious summits in Rome. The first resulted in a common call for a better defense of the environment in view of the COP26; the second brought together religions around the project of the Global Educational Pact, one of the great educational initiatives of the Holy See; finally, a third time of prayer for peace took place at the foot of the Colosseum with the Pontiff.
At the end of these four days, the areas that Francis favors for cooperation with people of other faiths clearly emerge. He brings them together on the traditional theme of world peace — an an heir to the Assisi meetings of John Paul II — but also by coordinating a common response to ecological questions – the “common home” of people of all religions and none – and on education . The pontiff has also become the defender of an “education to fraternity” in line with the Document of that name signed in Abu Dhabi in 2019.
Another lesson: in these three areas, we see that Pope Francis certainly has dicasteries and commissions that do their work in their respective areas. However, the pivotal role between religion and diplomatic, ecological, and educational themes now seems to be systematically supported by the lay Community of Sant’Egidio, a true right hand of the Pontiff.