World Religious Unity


Cardinal Francis Arinze, who's considered a possible successor to Pope John Paul II, has denied Jesus is the only way to heaven. In a recent interview the spirited 66 year-old deputy for outreach to other religions was asked, "So was Jesus wrong when he said he was the way, the truth and the life?" Arinze responed, "If a person were to push what you said a little further and say that if you're not a Christian you're not going to heaven, we'd regard that person as a fundamentalist...and theologically wrong. I met in Pakistan a Muslim. He had a wonderful concept of the Koran. We were like two twins that had known one another from birth. And I was in admiration of this man's wisdom. I think that man will go to heaven. There was a Buddhist in Kyoto, in Japan. This man, a good man, open, listening, humble--I was amazed. I listened to his works of wisdom and said to myself, "The grace of God is working in this man." The interviewer then repeated the question, "So you can still get to heaven without accepting Jesus?" "Expressly, yes [he laughs with the audience]" (Dallas Morning News, 3/20/99)


Inter-Religious Meeting to Promote World Peace

VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- "Everyone must work together to build up the peace," said Cardinal Francis Arinze, as he announced that a major inter- religious assembly will be held at the Vatican in October

Cardinal Arinze, the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, told a Vatican Radio audience that about 200 people will be invited to take part in the assembly, which will be scheduled for October 24- 29. The participants will include Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and representatives of other faiths.

The goal of the assembly will be the preparation of a common declaration in favor of world peace. The participants will make a pilgrimage to Assisi on October 27, and share a day of prayer-- each following the traditions of his own faith-- on October 28. Pope John Paul II will preside at the formal closing of the assembly on October 29.

Next Pope Should Be From Africa, Says Vatican Official
African Church Information Service
April 15, 2002
Posted to the web April 12, 2002

One of the Vatican's most influential figures has reopened the debate about the succession to Pope John Paul II by saying he hopes the next pope will come from Africa.
The remarks by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in an interview last week with the German newspaper Die Welt come at a time of increasing speculation that the Pope may be forced to step down because of ill health.

Ratzinger said the election of an African pope "would be a positive sign for the whole of Christendom". He added: "For all its condemnation of racism, the Western world still has reservations about the Third World".
"Yet, in Africa for example, we have truly great figures whom we can only admire. They are fully up to the job". Ratzinger's comments carry weight in Vatican circles because of his role as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's theological watchdog.
His comments were seen in the Italian press as supporting Cardinal Francis Arinze from Nigeria to become the next pope. Arinze currently heads the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue.
Open speculation about the Pope's succession is highly unusual for any senior Vatican official. Ratzinger is believed to have never before spoken directly about it in an interview.
The Italian news agency Adista, which specialises in Catholic affairs, suggested that the cardinal was hoping to play the role of "kingmaker" in the conclave of Cardinals that will select the next pope.
Adista pointed out that later this month Ratzinger turns 75, the normal retirement age at the Vatican. This could have led the cardinal to take greater liberty in speaking publicly, the agency speculated.
It said that Ratzinger might be trying to influence those Cardinals in favour of a pope from Latin America. "But history teaches us that the manoeuvres of the pre-conclave are disproved by the choice made at the end by the 'real' conclave," the agency concluded.
"The issue is not the country or the continent from which the next pope comes," Giuseppe Casale, the former Catholic bishop of Foggia, said.
"The important thing is that someone is chosen who has an open mind and who is able to lead the Church in a world that is rapidly changing, one in which dialogue between cultures, religions and peoples is becoming ever more important".
He said that while Ratzinger's suggestion had some "fascinating aspects", it was unlikely, given the present state of affairs, that the next pope would come from Africa.
Media speculation has increased in recent weeks about the health of the Pope, who is said to have Parkinson's disease. The Vatican cancelled several papal appearances in early March, giving as a reason the Pope's painful arthritic knee.
On Palm Sunday, for the first time in his papacy, the Pope did not take his place at the altar during a mass in St Peter's Square. He also failed to take part in another Holy Week ritual.
The US magazine Newsweek last week quoted an anonymous Vatican Cardinal who said the pope "no longer has the energy to face up to the pressures of the different currents inside the Vatican". But Cardinal Ratzinger indirectly rejected suggestions that Pope John Paul might resign because of ill health.
"Of course, you can see that he's sometimes very tired, but he still takes on an enormous amount of work, perhaps too much," Ratzinger told Die Welt. "But he still has the strength to deal with his important tasks and to take the important decisions himself".
Reported by Luigi Sandri for Ecumenical News International

The Next Pope?
At 69, Francis Arinze is the right age for a pope. In ceremonial appearances he flashes a winning smile and displays a self-depreciating sense of humor
Posted on: 04/10/2001
April 16 issue - If God answers the constant prayers of the people of Onitsha, Nigeria, the city will soon be known as the town that gave the Roman Catholic Church its first black pope. It was here that Francis Arinze presided as archbishop for 18 years, before he arrived at the Vatican in 1985 and became Nigeria's first cardinal.
And it is where, every year, Arinze returns to worship in the Holy Trinity Cathedral. "No one wants to talk about his chances - to do so could work against him," says Father Martin Omikumls, the cathedral's pastor. "But everyone is praying that it be God's will."
At 69, Arinze is the right age for a pope. In ceremonial appearances he flashes a winning smile and displays a self-depreciating sense of humor. Since his name first appeared on journalistic lists of papabali four years ago, Arinze has avoided reporters as a matter of policy - a sure sign he is taking the talk of his candidacy seriously. But his experience at the Vatican has been limited to a single post: as president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, he has been the pope's contact man with Muslims, principally, but also with Hindus and Buddhists. His early pastoral letters, as well as his more recent pronouncements, show Arinze to be old-fashioned in this theology, and reluctant to venture much beyond quotations from John Paul II.
Arinze averages three visits a year to the United States, yet his profile is so low that few African-Americans claim to know him. His most frequent American host is a wealthy white Catholic, Thomas Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza and financial backer of conservative Catholic causes. Nonetheless, the possibility that Arinze might become the first black pope has generated considerable buzz within the nation's small circle of elite black Catholics. "It would be a symbol that the church is colorblind," says Dr. Norman Francis, president of Xavier University in New Orleans.
Arinze has strong competition. There are 27 Latin American cardinals, and they may well feel that that the time is ripe for one of them to occupy the papal throne. What's more, John Paul II is known to regard the churches of Africa as still rather new to the faith. But Arinze, an Ibo, has an extra cachet. The Ibos claims to be descended from the Biblical patriarch Jacob. This would make Arinze not only the first black pope, but the first to claim a Hebrew lineage as well.
With Robert Kaiser Blair in Rome

Catholic Cardinal Pushes for Black Pope

From staff and wire reports

Posted April 3, 2002 -- An African Pope would be a "good sign for all Christianity," a Roman Catholic cardinal said Tuesday.

In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said he would like to see the next head of the Roman Catholic Church come from Africa.

"In the West, for all that people deny being racist, there are ever greater reservations with regard to the Third World," he told Die Welt. "...Yet in Africa, for example, we have truly great figures, at whom one can only marvel. They are fully of the stature needed for the job."
Ratzinger, leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is the pontiff's chief theologian. His comments come at a time of much speculation about the health of Pope John Paul II.

"The African bishops tend to be more conservative doctrinally and morally than the Latin American bishops," he said. "Some Latin American bishops are extremely conservative, but on the whole they are more concerned with issues like social justice. That is why the Vatican sees Africa as a great continent of hope."

Ratzinger's comments were seen as backing for the candidacy of Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze. Arinze, 69, is the president of the pontifical council for inter-religious dialogue.

Israeli Rabbi: "We Need Vatican's Support"
March 15, 2002
Israeli Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Rabbi Michael Melchior, the leader of the Meimad religious party, met John Paul II today to ask for the Vatican's support in Mid-east peace efforts. Israel will look to give the Vatican a key role in an inter-religious dialogue with its Muslim neighbors, but also realized that the Vatican will dominate the political and diplomatic level. Rabbi Melchior said that Israel however must have the Vatican's support. I have come to Rome to meet with the Pope and let him act as a mediator with my Palestinian interlocutors.

Back when I was a teen, I saw a new broadcast where the reporter asked a Jewish gentleman in Jerusalem this question... "Your people have been fighting for thousands of years. Aren't you tired of it?" The Jewish man said, "Yes, we are, we will follow Antichrist if he would promise us peace."

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