Msgr. Machado: Pope Francis in Morocco, on the path of Abu Dhabi
by Felix Machado

Today and tomorrow the pontiff is visiting the North African country at the invitation of King Mohammad VI and the bishops. For the archbishop of Vasai, "religions should be bridges of peace" and "no nation should live with a closed mind" because this "would be a harbinger of a suicidal death".

Vasai (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis' journey to Morocco takes place in the footsteps of the path traced in his visit to Abu Dhabi: "dialogue with people of other religions is an irreversible commitment," stated Msgr. Felix Machado, Archbishop of Vasai and President of the Office for Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences.

He spoke on the pontiff's visit, which takes place today and tomorrow in the North African country, 34 years after that of John Paul II. For the bishop, "the fact that Muslims all over the world are open to authentic leaders of other religions, such as Pope Francis, is undoubtedly a sign of great hope". All the leaders, he adds, "including those in my beloved India, should have an opening of this kind". His comment below.

The visit of Pope Francis is in line with what he began in Abu Dhabi. It is a clear message that the Church believes in dialogue and her option for dialogue with people of other religions is an irreversible commitment. Let us not forget that St Pope John Paul II has already visited Morocco. The Saint was cordially invited by the King of Morocco in 1988 to speak to Muslim youth. Pope John Paul stood before 80,000 Muslim Moroccon youth and conversed with them for more than one hour on religious and spiritual topic. He remained 100% Catholic while he spoke and said some of the most beautiful things to Muslim youth. And tthey listened to him attentively and lovingly. That means holding firmly to one's own religious belief, on the one hand, while at the same time respecting the others' religious conviction with openness, on the other hand, are the hallmark of an authentic interreligious dialogue. The Catholic Church is firmly convinced of this. Pope John Paul II gave a superb example of what an interreligious dialogue is and should be as he has done on many other occasions. He taught everyone by doing, acting. Assisi 1986 is another example of how Pope John Paul II taught us Catholics what interreligious dialogue is and what it means. Pope Francis is doing the same now. He lives dialogue and not only talks about it.

I am sure, in a certain way, Pope Francis will continue the line of thought left by St Paul VI, John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, namely, reflection on the the vital theme of peace. St Pope John XXIII, the Pope of the Second Vatican Council, began this serious reflection with his memorable Encyclical, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). 

Islam which means Peace and Pax Christi are common major points of our two religious traditions. Pope Francis will bring depth to this theme. Obviously, Pope Francis is a genius when it comes to convincing people about building peace - peace which is in jeopardy today. He is going to bring people together by their attraction to truth (the other side of peace) and with his genuine love and compassion he will build a force for peace throughout the world and across religious boundaries. He is already doing that in a magnificent way and people love him. I was witness to this in Abu Dhabi.

This is urgent for our society and for the world at large. I am very happy that this visit will now take place. I am waiting for inspiration to continue my work for peace through interreligious dialogue. That the Muslims throughout the world are opening to authentic leaders of other religions, like Pope Francis, is certainly a sign of great hope. 

Everybody, including leaders in my own beloved India, should have such openness. It will bring out the best of what India has stood for millennia. In our globalized world no nation should live with closed mentality. That might herald suicidal death.

Religions would be bridges for world peace. Today, either there is world peace or there will be no world. This is because we are a globalized world whether we want it or not.

What will happen in Morocco will certainly affect the world - just as what happened in New Zealand (small nation) last month affected the world. So, the good that will happen in Morocco will affect the rest of the world. Something beautiful happened in Abu Dhabi last February. I was delighted to witness this miracle for peace.  I am sure something beautiful will happen in Morocco with Pope Francis' visit. I r repeat, the world needs "signs of hope". The Pope is doing just that - bringing hope to the seemingly hopeless world! Let us join Pope Francis with our prayers and support