In a recent meeting with Pope Francis, former Israeli president Shimon Peres suggested forming an “Organization of United Relations” to counter those who use religion for terroristic aims. Peres, who stepped down as president of Israel in July, met with Pope Francis for 45 minutes and suggested that the Pope guide his proposed international organization. The former president was one of the main characters of the invocation for peace in the Middle East held in the Vatican Gardens June 8, and Pope Francis holds him in great esteem. Though Peres is no longer Israeli president, Pope Francis referred to him during the Gaza crisis, reportedly phoning him. Peres’ trip to Rome shows his desire to remain a player in the Middle East peace process. In an interview granted to the Italian weekly “Famiglia Cristiana” on the eve of his visit to Pope Francis, Peres stressed that the “United Nations are now out of time. We now need an Organization of United Religions.” According to Peres, this organization would be “the best way to contrast with terrorists who kill in the name of their faith.” Pope Francis listened to Peres’ proposal “with attention, though he has not made any personal commitment,” Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, told journalists. Peres also maintained that “as there is a United Nations charter, a Charter of United Religions should be drafted” in order to “state in the name of all faiths that slaughtering people, and committing mass killings, has nothing to do with religion.” According to Fr. Lombardi, Pope Francis told Peres “there are Holy See branches” working in these fields, including the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and that for interreligious dialogue, and he referred him to them. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued a strongly-worded declaration in August, following the expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), calling on all religious leaders, those of Islam in particular, to address and condemn the caliphate’s acts of terror. The week before the Pope Francis’ trip to Jordan and Israel, Cardinal Tauran, president of the pontifical council, visited Jordan and issued a common document of solidarity together with Prince El Hassan bin Talal, founder of the Jordan Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies. Bin Talal traveled to Rome Sept. 4, and met with Pope Francis after Peres. During their 30-minute meeting, bin Talal presented the center’s activities to the Pope, putting an emphasis on the common ground of the Golden Rule and showing Jordan’s efforts in building peace in the region. Fr. Lombardi stated that the Jordanian prince also showed the Pope the possibilities of collaboration in activities of solidarity in a globalized world. In September, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, brother of bin Talal, sponsored a summit of Christian leaders in the Middle East convoked by King Abdullah II to address the widespread emergencies facing Christians in the region; Jordan is widely seen as a protector of Christians in the area. Abdullah and bin Muhammad met with Pope Francis April 7 to indicate Jordan’s full support for his visit to the Holy Land. It is likely that the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue continue this particular dialogue with Jordan, while the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace will be charged with preparing a dossier on an “Organization of United Religions.” The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has voiced several times in recent years, in speeches and documents, their concern for the crisis of the United Nations and the need to reform the organization. The talks between Peres and the Vatican may tend toward this particular issue. Peres' proposal is not, however, unprecedented. There have been several attempts to create a global dialogue of faiths, most of them referring to the meetings of the “Parliament of the World’s Religions.” The first of these meetings took place in Chicago in 1893, under the name of World’s Parliament of Religions. The centenary of their first meeting was celebrated in 1993 in Chicago. The tone of the meeting was set by a document, “Towards a Global Ethic: an Initial Declaration,” mainly drafted by the controversial theologian Hans Kung. The next meeting of the “Parliament of the World’s Religions” will take place in the United States in 2015.
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