All Sons of Abraham?

Source: District of Asia

Since the document "Nostra Aetate" of the Second Vatican Council, the authorities of the Church have engaged in what they themselves have called interreligious dialogue.

The Pope's recent trip to Iraq, particularly to the site of Ur, provided the opportunity for yet another such event. The site of Ur has a special significance because it is the place of origin of Abraham, while this character seems to be favored by Christians, Jews and Muslims. It was therefore, from the point of view of dialogue, a strong symbolic place, but unfortunately for the organizers, the Jews were conspicuous by their absence.

The figure of Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) can very well serve as a basis for an intellectual exchange between Catholics and Muslims. The latter recognize that the Creator spoke to this man. As Catholics, we are convinced of the importance of this figure in the ancient world and we readily acknowledge his great virtue, especially his virtue of faith. In this regard, let us remember what the great St. Paul teaches us: "And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's 'offspring'" (Gal 3:29). Abraham alone has the privilege of bearing the title of father of believers; all those who believe in the true God after him, are his descendants.

This term itself is an object of a misunderstanding. In a collective tribune of the partisans of ‘Muslim Enlightenment’, we could read in the Figaro Newspaper of March 9th: "We are all children of Abraham", the key message of this trip reminds us that Muslims, Christians and Jews have in common much more than what separates them." However, behind this formula we must see a rather gross error, because the reason why Jews and Muslims consider Abraham as their father is very different from the Christian reason. The basis of Christian filiation is certainly based on the carnal descent of Christ from Abraham. Jesus, the Lord, is a son of Abraham according to the flesh, but he is more than Abraham. He makes this clear to the Jews of his time who claim to be the patriarch while they reject him as Christ. Abraham looked forward to the day of God, the coming of the Messiah: "Abraham your father rejoiced that he should see my day; he saw it and was glad. He saw it and rejoiced" (John 8:56).

Yet Jews and Muslims claim to be descendants of Abraham, some through Isaac, others through Ishmael. From Ishmael came the religious heritage of monotheism that Mohammed will restore. This is how Islam in its Arab dimension claims to find legitimacy in the face of the great Hebrew lineage of the prophets of the true God. Muslims claim that Abraham was ordered to sacrifice Ishmael (although the Koranic text does not specify the name of the son to be sacrificed) and celebrate this event on the day of Eid-el-Kebir. As for the Jews, Abraham is truly the carnal and spiritual father of the Jewish nation. Both connect this filiation/ascendence to religious integrity, whereas Christians dissociate since the advent of Christ the spiritual relationship to Abraham from the carnal relationship: "the son of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son of the free woman by virtue of the promise" (Gal 4:23). Thus, this fatherhood is threefold, and therefore contradictory. (Christians cannot recognize with the Jews, Isaac as the son of the promise. No, we believe, and St. Paul is rather very strong in asserting that the principal descendant is indeed the One in whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed, and that is Jesus Christ.)

The first virtue of a dialogue is to remove doubts, to clarify concepts, in a word to manifest the truth. And this is what is seriously lacking in these interreligious dialogues: The Pope's speech in Ur is based on a framework of permanent confusion. He makes us believe that Muslims, Jews and Christians have the same faith, and that the distinction between them is only cultural, as it can exist between Latin and Eastern Catholics. So, certainly, there is a will to speak of a fraternal love which should flow from the same spirit of adoration, but this remains a mirage. Building a society of brotherhood by positively excluding the question of the truth about God can only lead to one city: Babel, the city of confusion.

Let us recall the eternal words of St. Pius X when he condemned the dreams of the Sillon (in "Our Apostolic Charge"):

No, Venerable Brethren, there is no genuine fraternity outside Christian charity. Through the love of God and His Son Jesus Christ Our Saviour, Christian charity embraces all men, comforts all, and leads all to the same faith and same heavenly happiness...


 Abbé Renaud de Sainte-Marie

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