Pope’s invitiation to atheists

POPE Francis, celebrating his first Christmas as Roman Catholic leader, on Wednesday called on atheists to unite with believers of all religions and work for “a homemade peace” that can spread across the world.

Speaking to about 70,000 people from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the same spot where he emerged to the world as pope when he was elected on March 13, Francis also made another appeal for the environment to be saved from “human greed and rapacity”.

The leader of the 1.2 billion-member Church wove his first “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and world) message around the theme of peace.

“Peace is a daily commitment. It is a homemade peace,” he said.

He said that people of other religions were also praying for peace, and – departing from his prepared text – he urged atheists to join forces with believers.

“I invite even non-believers to desire peace. (Join us) with your desire, a desire that widens the heart. Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace,” he said, drawing sustained applause from the crowd.

Francis’s reaching out to atheists and people of other religions is a marked contrast to the attitude of former Pope Benedict, who sometimes left non-Catholics feeling that he saw them as second-class believers.


14 thoughts on “Pope’s invitiation to atheists

  1. A monumental builder

    An impressive exhibition recently opened at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which has shed new light on the historic figure of Herod the Great. He is indeed a towering figure in the region’s history, and sought to bridge the wide chasm between Jewish and Roman cultures.

    Herod was called “Great” because he was a great builder. His legacy starts with the Herodium, the peculiar shaved-off mountain peak located in the Judean wilderness some 15 kilometres south of Jerusalem.

    Here, Herod built for himself the largest palatial complex of its day in the entire Roman Empire. Serving as a summer palace as well as his eventual resting place, every conceivable luxury was incorporated into its design, including opulent baths, swimming pools, gardens and a seven-hundred seat theatre.

    Herod also built the formidable mountain fortress at Masada, and the spectacular port city of Caesarea, complete with a hippodrome and amphitheatre. In addition, he built several other fortresses throughout the land dedicated to Roman emperors as part of his constant drive to court their favour.

    A puzzling persona, Herod sought to appeal tot he Jews as well. So he also built the rectangular Machpela in Hebron over the burial cave of Abraham and the patriarchs. But Herod’s masterpiece was his refurbishing of the Second Temple, which he expanded southward to include a lavish shopping mall and the colonnaded underground chambers of the Hulda Gates.

    A conflicted character

    According to scholars, Herod was from a prominent Idumean family that had married into the Hasmonean dynasty. Thus, he was part Edomite and part Jewish. The Idumeans were a former enemy of Israel that he been conquered and converted to Judaism. The Hasmoneans, on the other hand, were the famous Maccabean family that had led the revolt against Syrian-Greek tyranny in 167 BC, which is remembered at Hanukkah.

    There was one problem, however. The Maccabee family installed themselves as rulers and priests over Israel, rather than returning to power the royal lineage of David and the Zodokite priesthood. By the time Jesus was born in a lowly manger in Bethlehem, here was a general hope among many Israelites that not only would the new Roman oppressors be overthrown, but that out of the turmoil the proper kingly and priestly lines would also be restored.

    Thus Herod the Great sat on a throne that rightfully belonged to the royal House of David, to which Jesus belonged.

    The New Testament portrays this usurper as ruthless and highly insecure, even to the point of ordering the massacre of innocent babes in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18). The writings of the noted Jewish historian Josephus Flavius concur, recounting that Herod also slaughtered his beautiful second wife, Mariamne, and three of his sons in similar fits of jealousy.

    Thus, Herod’s lust for power and notorious cruelty became widely known. Josephus records these words from Emperor Augustus: “I’d rather be Herod’s pig than his son.”

    The last years of Herod’s life were marked by disease, envy and murder. While on his death bed in his winter palace in Jericho, Herod worried that no one would mourn his death, and so he ordered the arrest of some 1,,000 Judeans who were to be executed on the day he died. Shortly thereafter, his overweight corpse was carried to its final resting place in Herodium, while his closest aides – disgusted by their master’s dying wish – released the detained Judeans unharmed.

    Idumean by birth, Jewish by religion and roman by culture, Herod was an architectural genius but also a cruel and egocentric madman.”

    Bible teaching—‘Christmas and its lessons in humility’ by David Parsons—WORD from Jerusalem, December, 2013


    by Birte Scholz

    Winner of the recent “Miss Holocaust Survivor” beauty contest, Shoshana Kolmer is a new resident of the Christian Embassy’s assisted-living home for Holocaust survivors in Haifa. At 94, she has a captivating charm and a compelling story of courage and survival.


    Shoshana was born in 1919 in Czechoslovakia. When war broke out in 1939, she was taken to a concentration camp and later to the Auschwitz death camp. She still has the number 80277 tattooed on her arm, together with a triangle to mark her as Jewish.

    “I was 23 years old when I came to Auschwitz”, Shoshana said. “I had to work in an ammunition factory. Eichmann and Mengele were there when we arrived….They took everything away. I had to wear a nightgown.”

    “Mengele did the selection when we arrived. He sent the people to the right or the left, to death or hard work, and also selected some of the girls for the soldiers. I was sick with typhus and pneumonia, but I still worked because I was afraid to go to the doctor. I knew that he would send me to the crematorium.”

    “I suffered so much in the camp”, added Shoshana. “Because I sand a song to a German officer that I had written myself, I got more food. Because of that, I survived.”

    Near the end of the war, the prisoners were sent on a death march to another concentration comp. German soldiers kept a strict watch on 100,000 people leaving Auschwitz in early 1945. It was a freezing -19 degree Celsius. For four days, Shoshana had to walk without food, eating only snow. The road was covered with dead bodies.

    “I had no coat, just a blanket wrapped around my shoulders”, Shoshana recalled. “The death march was horrible. I never saw so many dead people in my life.”

    Shoshana and one sister survived the Holocaust. Together, they immigrated to Israel in 1946. Shoshana has two children and three grandchildren.

    During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, rockets struck her home and completely destroyed it. She was standing outside in the stairwell reading Psalms and came out unharmed, surviving yet another ordeal.

    “Everything was from heaven. It was written there that I should live”, Shoshana insists. She laughs a lot and is happy, despite her traumas in life.

    “At the age of 94, I am in a wonderful place”, Shoshana assured. “I want to thank the Christian Embassy for all their donations to help Holocaust Survivors to live well and with dignity.”

    Though in her nineties, Shoshanna was till taking care of her 65-year old son, who is mute and mentally disabled. Realising she could no longer care for them both, she tried to find an elderly home that would take in the pair together, but they were repeatedly turned down. That is until they found out about the Haifa Home, where they were warmly welcomed.

    “I am so glad. It is because of your help”, she said. “I will never forget that!”

    “At the age of 94, I am in a wonderful place. I want to thank the Christian Embassy for all their donations to help Holocaust Survivors to live well and with dignity.”

    WORD from Jerusalem — November 2013


  3. Zvi Cohen and the train to nowhere

    Now 83 years old, he was married for more than 50 years but is alone these days and suffering from poor health. He constantly needs a respirator but could not afford one. Yet since arriving at the survivors’ home two months ago, he finally has the companionship and medical care he needs. So Zvi is very happy now, after a lifetime of suffering and trauma. This is his story of survival.

    Zvi was born in Romania in 1931. His father was a tailor while his mother raised Zvi and his four sisters.

    He was seven years old when World War 11 broke out. Zvi recalls beautiful Shabbats with his family before the German invasion, but their quiet life was suddenly shattered. German troops rounded up the Jewish families on a cold winter day and packed them onto a train.

    “I didn’t understand at first why people were lying on the floor of the carriages”, Zvi explained. “ I didn’t realise they were dead. They had suffocated, unable to breathe.”

    “Every two days the Germans stopped the train, opened the cattle wagons, threw out the dead and moved on. It was hell.”

    The train was supposed to take them to a German-occupied area in Russia. But the Germans eventually turned the train around and returned the Jews to Romania.

    “It was then days on the train, back and forth,”, said Zvi. “ “Every other day, the Germans kept stopping the train to open the doors and throw out the dead.”

    Once when the train stopped, he jumped out to find some water for his mother and sisters. Suddenly, he saw the train had started to move.

    “I ran quickly and grabbed the handle of the car and it got stuck in my hand”, Avi recounted. “I still suffer as a result of disability.”

    Finally, they wee brought back home and somehow managed to stay alive the rest of the war. Zvi’s father had been taken to a forced labour camp at the beginning of the war and they never saw him again. But Zvi dug a pit close to the house where the rest of the family could hid if needed. Every time there was a bombing aid, the family hid there and was saved.

    Eventually, the Joint Distribution Committee took his family to a Jewish refugee camp, where there was food and clothing…and hope!

    Zvi made aliyah to Israel in 1950 and got married in 1965. But his poor physical condition from the war meant he had trouble holding down a permanent job. The marriage suffered and eventually ended. He has two sons from the marriage but hardly ever sees them.

    “I’m happy that I have come to a friendly place”, Zvi remarked about the Haifa Home. “Here there are people who care about each other and I get all I need. At least for the rest of my life, I can live in peace.”

    WORD from Jerusalem—December 2013


  4. Even non-believers? I’m pretty sure non-believers desire peace at least as much as those who associate with religions. For there to be peace, those of differing beliefs do need to work on building bridges though. We are all human and under the influence of the same greater powers, regardless of how we describe them.


    • The thought occurred to me that atheists could have invited believers to join with them in peace building.

      Francis could hardly have offered that though, he did okay.


      • They do it all the time Strewth. Try standing outside a church and telling the congregation it could be doing more useful things with the time…and more successfully if they didn’t let on they were godbotherers. 😉

        (Haven’t yet worked up the nerve to suggest that giving up religion altogether would automatically increase the furtherance of peace around the world! 😯 )


      • Dabbles, some churches today do much without uttering a word of religion. One example is Lifeline, a Uniting Church organisation, but there are many others.


  5. It’d be hard not to admire this bloke no matter what brand of belief/non-belief one adopted. Instead of concentrating on your own egotistical ambitions (DIY ‘ministries’, winning tickets to heaven/paradise/where-ever, etc.) or ‘proving’ your own viewpoint, he says that in pursuit of a worthwhile cause practicality insists that doing a deal with the devil, or even heretics!, is perfectly legitimate.

    After all, god does it all the time.
    And he’s the only other entity with the nerve to say so publicly.


  6. The media seem to be on his side which is very important nowadays. Without the media you could be all things wonderful and not get anywhere. With the media on your side, your past can be forgotten and you can be praised by leaders (Please note I don’t know Francis past so this statement was not intended for him)


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