This is a crucial moment in world history; wars are raging, countries are forming, and terrorists are plotting. The opportunity to make positive change and bring about good in the world is right at our fingertips. But in order to make a lasting impact, we as a global community need to be united. This is why I was so disappointed in Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican for releasing a document stating that Roman Catholicism is the only true path to salvation. The document, restating the views of a 2000 document, also said that other Christian and Orthodox communities are either defective or not true churches. These actions by the Catholic Church are a big blow to the movement for peace and unity amongst religions and nations.
Instead of a message of hope, peace, or unity, the most prestigious religious leader in the world decisively and divisively stated that other religions and Christian denominations are essentially worthless. The Vatican’s message alienates the billions of people around the globe who do not subscribe to the faith of the Catholic Church. In a time when wars are raging over religious differences in the Middle East, the Pope not only missed an opportunity for healing, he fueled the already searing fire. And he didn’t just hurt his church’s chance at bringing in new members; he tainted all religions by trying to play God.
In a world that is constantly moving towards progression, the Pope has in some ways stunted its growth disability, the ability for citizens to use their own teachings to create a better world. In his almost arrogant approach to peace and world healing, he has allowed non-Roman Catholics to look down upon his church and lose respect not only for such an esteemed figure, but the men and women he leads.
No matter what the Bible says, nobody on earth can truly claim to know what God is thinking, feeling, or doing in Heaven. How arrogant must you be to declare that the only way to Heaven is through your church? That the only real church is your own? We know from reading scripture that accepting and loving Jesus Christ is “the way” to eternal salvation, so where does the Pope get off saying that the Roman Church is the only church that can provide this? Last I checked, it was God who gave salvation as a gift, not any of us.
Regardless of the doctrinal bickering now occurring because of the Vatican’s document (many religions and Christian denominations came out with strongly worded retorts immediately after the Vatican’s document was released), I cannot say enough, that none of us — nobody — truly knows the exact meaning of the words in the Bible. Interpreting the Word is not an exact science, but a personal journey between each of us and our savior. To claim to know the precise interpretation of the Bible is not just irresponsible, it’s sinful. Only God knows.
The Catholic Church should be the first to know that we are all sinful, broken human beings. Their involvement in the molesting of thousands of children was disgraceful and hurtful to all of us — not just the victims of abuse. For their leadership to release a document of this nature during the same week that one of its archdioceses paid out $600 million because of clergy abuse, speaks to their arrogance and utter naivety in dealing with the global community.
For peace to occur — or even come close to occurring — the nations, the organizations, the races, the religions, the businesses, and the people of this world must put aside petty differences and become one. As the global community shrinks, each of us must cast aside our egos and differences in order to make room for others. When one shirks the global community, all of us are affected.
The Pope’s message was wrong and I’m sure some day he’ll ask God for forgiveness because of it. I can only hope that he is cognizant of the frightful world we now live in, and the need for unity and understanding amongst all nations, despite political, religious and personal views. However, in the meantime, we as faithful people of various religions, faiths, and denominations must take the high road, the road our savior demanded that we take, and forgive him for his beliefs. Unity depends on it. If he won’t welcome us, then we need to welcome him, so we can continue on the journey to oneness.
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