by Roberto Montoya 13 May 2020

Pope Francis has joined the day of prayer, fasting and works of charity for humanity scheduled for 14 May. It is a call for everyone, together and united, to implore the end of the pandemic. The initiative was launched by the High Committee for Human Brotherhood and welcomed by the international community, heads of state, personalities from the religious world and beyond, shared by the UN Secretary General himself. It is an invitation to prayer wherever you are.

Today the Church of Pope Francis is an honest mediator, a credible and trusted leader available to the world. For more than two thousand years it has seen epochal changes, power struggles, wars and revolutions, prosperity and poverty. A year has passed since the signing of the "document on human brotherhood for world peace and coexistence" signed in Abu Dhabi between Pope Francis and the great Iman of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb . "Building bridges" has been the Pontiff's workhorse since the beginning of his pontificate, hoping for a world built on human brotherhood at 360 °, a source of inspiration for all humanity.

Words that ask everyone to change their perspective, to move from I to us, where each person owes respect and dignity to the other, with mutual responsibility. A poor church for the poor, like that of the apostle Peter and his faithful, who left from the Holy Land to preach the Good News. An operational and dialoguing Christianity of the third millennium, characterized by an open confrontation with all the other religions, especially with Islam.

Dialogue is challenging. To dialogue you need to have an identity. Evangelii Gaudium underlines that "true openness implies remaining firm in one's deepest convictions, with a clear and joyful identity, but open to understanding the other. Dialogue can truly enrich each one."

The document on human brotherhood wants to become a concrete reality for all of us, fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and necessary. Message that was brought by Pope Francis in his last apostolic journeys, especially to Japan and Thailand, spreading gestures of love and hope also towards China .

a difficult goal to achieve, sometimes incomprehensible to many. But with a compelling need to dialogue, also strongly liked by all those who fight against extremism and fanaticism, who stand for peace and living together, especially at a time in which we are trying to protect and defend ourselves, and also to recover a certain normalcy. Until science finds solu tion to Coronavirus - affirms Francesco - “… we will be called to recreate and popular spaces of fraternity, solidarity and peace. From this pandemic, a new man will have to be born again. "

A coherent and credible believer, he is a witness bearing values ​​that can strongly contribute to building more just societies. Righteousness, faithfulness, love for the common good, attention for the most needy, benevolence, mercy, is all that man needs in this historical phase. Taken by surprise, confined to homes, this crisis has brought us face to face with the reality of being part of a single human family. This is not only a message for believers, but for all people of good will: we are all called to row together, in need of comforting each other.

We met Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot , President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Card. Ayuso we have reached phase 2 of this pandemic. What is the message you want to give to the world with this initiative of prayer, fasting and works of charity for this May 14th?

We want to respond to the coronavirus pandemic with the universality of prayer: to renew our unity, as members of the one human family. It is known to all that the majority of religions have many elements in common, such as prayer, fasting, almsgiving, pilgrimage, and which help us understand the meaning of the day of prayer on May 14th. We wish to follow up on that beautiful prayer that his Holiness had made in St. Peter's Square on March 27, on that dark and rainy evening, in which he made this invocation for the end of the pandemic. That image of prayer extends to this May 14 at an interreligious level. The event was warmly welcomed, so that believers belonging to different religious traditions in all parts of the world can find a moment of sharing on this day as human beings, citizens, but also as believers.

Is this the first initiative since the agreement signed a year ago in Abu Dhabi on human brotherhood?

No, there have been others. For example, we started with a project resulting from the gift that had been granted to Pope Francis, the construction of the Abramitica house in Abu Dhabi on an island where a mosque, a church, a synagogue and a cultural center will be built. A meeting place where visitors can understand more deeply the meaning of the prayers of monotheistic religions. The intention is that the message reaches the four corners of the earth. Human brotherhood is open to all. 

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis proposes interreligious dialogue for the good of humanity. How can we create a more fraternal world?

It is a personalized call, but also a community call. Dialogue is an invitation to communicate, a generous invitation to each person, it is not a do ut des.
All the popes, since Vatican II, have promoted interreligious dialogue. Already Paul VI had promoted a Church which in front of the world takes the Colloquium; dialogue that resumed John Paul II in a moment torn by conflicts, promoting the culture of peace, which culminated in the day of prayer for peace that took place in Assisi in 1986; later, in the spirit of the declaration Nostra Aetatae, Pope Benedict XVI promoted a dialogue of Truth in Charity. The need was felt to evaluate and rediscover the importance that in dialogue each one remains strongly rooted in his own religious tradition.
Dialogue is not a melting pot , it has no purpose of creating a new universal religion for everyone. Dialogue means to become the travel companion of every human being, on the path to truth. Hence the proposal of Pope Francis , to live respect and friendship with a view to interreligious dialogue.

What could the contribution to building the future, the dialogue between people of different religions, be in the situation we are experiencing?

The day of May 14 is an invitation addressed to all, it demonstrates the universal character of this historical moment, in which the inner response on the part of each of us is important. For this we must become aware that we can and must contribute to building a better future. Walking and bringing together people from different cultures and religious traditions is possible. The essential is to understand that everyone has a role as a human being, a bearer of the good. We are all members of one human family.

After the historic signature of the document on human brotherhood signed in Abu Dhabi between Pope Francis and the great Iman of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, what is the future of Christians in the Middle East?

I thank you for the question. When I participated in the Synod for the Middle East years ago, the bishops, the patriarchs of that area, had made it clear in the manifesto that they felt they were children of their land, observing all the laws and norms as good citizens. Consequently, as Christians, in a society with the presence of other religions, it was very important not to feel like second-class citizens. The call for full citizenship is something very important, therefore the document of the Human Brotherhood is giving an impulse to re-evaluate the future of Christians in the Middle East. What we hope for is that Christians are not considered as a minority because there are no majorities or minorities. Every human being must be respected in his integrity, in his belonging, and above all in his belief. The document on human brotherhood in the Middle East has had positive responses: fullness of rights and duties, Christians together, with each other, can build a better society. 

In the light of the document on brotherhood for humanity, how can we combat the viruses of nationalism and selfishness that proliferate in some parts of the world?

Pope Francis continues to repeat that we must promote the culture of inclusion, we must all feel like brothers and sisters. It is only through this fraternal integration of friendship and inclusive respect, sensitive to every type of difference, color, race, social reality, that a better, fairer world can be fostered where inequalities can be fought. The viruses of nationalism and selfishness take advantage of these occasions, of a culture of non-inclusion, to divide societies.