Pope Francis has made some very provocative comments in his time as Pontiff. However, according to Vatican News, in his address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis reiterated the Church’s impartial passion for humanity, especially wounded or humiliated humanity. The Pope’s commitment to building bridges between different people, cultures, and religions is increasingly emerging as a distinctive feature of his pontificate. If there is one feature that has become increasingly clear in the course of nearly nine years of Pope Francis’ pontificate, it is precisely the tireless commitment of the Successor of Peter to building bridges in order to unite where there is division, to cross those visible and sometimes invisible barriers of separation that prevent encounter.
The Pope of Fratelli tutti, the third encyclical of Pope Francis, subtitled "on fraternity and social friendship", reminds us that on that bridge, called humanity, we must all take steps in order to encounter one another. And we must do so above all in order to meet those who are furthest away —because however distant they may be from us, they are still our brothers.
This is a powerful, clarion call in this age of division, often fomented by our politicians looking to gain favor with their “bases”. However, one politician is moving against the grain, Tulsi Gabbard. She has made a big splash in the news lately. But, more importantly, she speaks in line with Pope Francis. In her words;
“For those of you who don’t know, I was raised by a Catholic father, and a Vaishnava Hindu mother. So as a family, we studied the Bhagavad Gita and the Bible, side by side. I loved hearing about Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield, as well as the stories of Lord Jesus Christ, teaching us to love the Father. (By the way, my Dad actually attended seminary to be a priest for a year when he was younger, but changed his mind. I’m glad he did; because otherwise, as you Catholics know, I wouldn’t be here today!). . . Love, or aloha, is the solution—individually, and collectively on a global level. So, the more we grow in our love for God, the more we will love others, regardless of their nationality, their race, their religion, or any other differences that we might have with them. The more we love our neighbors, the more we will see war as a last resort for solving problems. We’ll become more sensitive to the cost of war, the suffering that it inflicts upon people, other living entities, and the environment. The more we love others, the more we’ll feel this natural inclination to help those who are poorer than we are in material things, as well as those who are poorer in happiness—or spiritually poor. The first step is we need to be cultivating our love for God. Now, one can ask the question: Can we cultivate our love for God independently from taking care of our neighbors or being concerned about other living beings? The answer is no. Both Christian and Hindu scriptures teach us that in our quest to have a closer relationship with God, if we neglect the wellbeing of others who are all God’s children, then this will stunt or impede the growth of our love for Him—our closeness to God. It will interfere with our intimate relationship with God because it will be displeasing to Him. In other words, we get closer to God by trying to do what is pleasing to Him and refraining from doing those things that are displeasing to Him. What could be more pleasing to God than taking care of His children—working for the material and spiritual wellbeing of His children?. . . This is the foundation and this is the solution to all of our problems.”
Therefore, the lone voice of Pope Francis “crying in the wilderness” is being joined by others. Often the Pope has been accused of pushing aside traditional Catholics in favor of other groups or those on the fringe. Perhaps, in this world that is ever growing smaller and more diverse, he has the right idea- even if he des not execute it in the best way. The words of Francis and Gabbard have been foreshadowed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI; Can the Hindu down the street be more Catholic than those that go to Church every Sunday? Back in the 1960’s Cardinal Ratzinger saw the walls between faith crumbling and the need for bridges.