Friday, September 23, 2016
Assisi: as Fr Lucie Smith says needs revamping, it is a bit like any ecumenical event, it becomes self-referential, a bit 'same old' a bit dull. I have always justified it to those Catholics who disapprove of 'Assisi', as being the Pope being recognised in some sense as 'leader' of all 'faith communities', I admit its not necessarily good theology.
I don't know who draws up the guest list, or more significantly the veto list, presumably for the more important it is the Pope. This year the dear old Dalai Lama being struck from the guest list, that is not insignificant - presumable a more acceptable (to the Chinese and therefore Rome) patriotic Lama was found as a substitute for Chinese approved Tibetan Buddhism. I don't know if the there were other Chinese 'faith communities', most probably not Falun-gong. China and its treatment of Christians is deeply worrying, read this from First Things or the Catholic Herald on organ harvesting. It is pretty harrowing stuff but it is these are people, the Chinese government, Holy See plans to allow to choose Catholic bishops.
Patriarch Bartholomew was also there behind and obviously junior to the Bishop of Rome but then to be honest he is always in need of friends (and money) being starved of both not only by Moscow and Athens but also the increasingly hostile Turkish state, which under Erdogan is taking a significant turn against the countries tiny Orthodox community, there have been accusations the Phanar was involved in the coup against him. As things are it is quite possible next year depending on how things develop with Moscow, or whether the Holy See wants a closer relationship with Turkey, he too could be on the way out, or being even more junior.
There were of course Sikhs and Bahá'ís who are always glad of an invitation: reaching out to other religions is part of their creed. This time round from the photographs there seemed to be a lack of pagans, animist and spirit worshippers. I don't know if the Vatican prohibits Voodooists, Spiritualists and Satanists, there didn't seem to be many in the photographs.
There were various Jewish and Islamic leaders who were more 'ecumenical' than most of their brethren who frankly would not be seen dead at such an event or even in the company of those who would attend such an event. Many of course are what Catholics might consider 'Liberal'
What should not be forgotten is that Assisi is much more a political event than a religious one, increasingly it seems like event to show favour to political friends and disfavour to those who might compromise the Holy Sees global ambitions, as a peace maker of course, and at the table of peace-makers.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake