Pope’s Prayer Intention for January: Fellowship with other religions

A greater sense of human solidarity has grown among us as we ended a dreadful year, yet it wasn’t universal. The longed-for advent of viable vaccines was accompanied by rich nations buying up huge stocks, leaving majority world nations struggling.
Some people appeared to relegate the common good to second place if their own comfort was affected by COVID-19 mitigations.

But the urgency we all face demands that we not only pray this intention but expand it to all of humanity. The Pope asks us to pray, with him: ‘May the Lord give us the grace to live in full fellowship with our brothers and sisters of other religions, praying for one another, open to all.’

The grace of respect for all

The theme of Pope Francis’s recent book, Let Us Dream, is that a better future is possible, but only through greater human solidarity. That solidarity has to include our natural world. Our whole way of living needs to be rebuilt so that every single person is able to live in a way that their fundamental dignity demands for them.

If we pray for the grace to pray for one another and to live with each other ‘in full fellowship’, we will be able to extend our desire for human solidarity beyond respecting others of different faiths, towards a respect for all others, in our common humanity.
And we recall that it is always a grace we ask for, which means recognising that we’re not always capable of achieving this on our own, even though we often try to convince ourselves that we can.

Each year, since Pope St Paul VI instituted the World Day of Peace in 1968, popes have begun each new year with a particular message. For 2021, Pope Francis entitles this latest message ‘A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace’. Think of what its opposite might be: an uncaring culture would mean the absence of peace! And in many places, there is no culture of care, therefore, no peace. In this 2021 message, Francis proposes that we need a culture of care as ‘a way to combat the culture of indifference, waste and confrontation so prevalent in our time.’

Indifference, waste and confrontation

That unholy cultural trinity is particularly striking. He points out, again, our indifference, meaning how people remain unmoved by another’s suffering. He warns of society’s wastefulness, which extends to viewing not only our planet but also some humans as expendable, then turns to the populism-fuelled violence of our contemporary world, where hostility is often preferred to fellowship.

The Pope proposes a culture of care as a response, ‘a “compass” capable of pointing out a common direction and ensuring a more humane future in the process of globalisation’. As he wrote in Laudato Si’ and frequently since, the Pope again begs us to see that all creation is inter-connected.

Quoting himself, he writes that, ‘a sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be authentic if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings.’

Our prayer with the Pope this month, for fellowship with those of other religions, should open our hearts to this fact about ourselves and our world. There is a pathway to peace that each of us can take, the choice is ours. At the beginning of this new year, let us pray with the Pope for the grace and the courage to take that path.

Fellowship in adversity

Looking back on the horrendous year just ended, Patrick Carberry SJ reflects on how the restrictions and lockdowns ‘brought home to us just how dependent we were on each other, how interwoven were our lives.’

We needed our wonderful doctors and nurses just as much as we needed our supermarket check-out staff and our delivery drivers. Perhaps most of all, we realised that we needed our neighbours. Some of us did not know our neighbours until this year.
These neighbours might be from other countries, practicing a different religion, or perhaps have no explicit organised faith. There are many anecdotal testimonies to how the shared adversity of this virus that didn’t discriminate brought increased human fellowship and solidarity, open to all. An important prayer for 2021 will be that this continue and that we might not revert to the pandemic of heartless individualism we have known in recent times.

Prayer moment

A suggested morning offering prayer for January:

Gracious and good God,
at the beginning of this day, this month and this new year,
when so much of the world is in pain and tears,
grant to all of us the grace to look for a better pathway, a culture of care that is open to all.
This morning, I want to offer the day ahead for the good of all humanity, starting with those around me and those I will meet today; I offer all these people to you, too.
Help me to know them, each one, as blessed and special,
regardless of their religion, race or politics.
Help me to look for the good in each one of them
and for the good that is in my own heart, too.
Our Father …

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