The false gospel of ’save yourself’

October 23 2020 - ROME, ITALY

Andrea RiccardiPrayer for Peace

Andrea Riccardi explains the significance of “religions gathering together” for the Meeting ’No one is saved alone” - L'Osservatore Romano, 23 October 2020

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As more and more people meet remotely via web, was it necessary for religious leaders to come together in person in Rome the day before yesterday? It was a sober meeting: a prayer of different religious communities - one next to the other - in various places on the Capitoline Hill. After, all the leaders launched a message of peace.

The Christians heard the Passion from Mark’s Gospel in the Basilica of Ara Coeli. Jesus is asked to "save himself”. "The “gospel of save yourself” is the falsest of the apocryphal gospels, making others carry the cross”- the Pope remarked.

It is in fact the gospel of the "new individualism”, on which so much of today’s social and economic life is based: "salvation" (success, self-defense, survival...) is only for oneself, regardless of or against others. This ideology is the basis for nationalism, for indifference towards other people’s wars and towards the environment that is our common home - as Patriarch Bartholomew recalled.

‘No one is saved alone. Peace and fraternity’ was the title of the meeting promoted by the Community of Sant'Egidio. In compliance with strict preventive measures against Covid-19, believers of various faiths gathered nonetheless together, to show also visually that the world can only be saved together. It will be saved, if we awaken from our indifference, that all too often translates into exclusive interest in us or in our part of the world.

The Chief Rabbi of France, Korsia, quoted Wiesel: "The opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference". Today religions speak harmonically - it is something new.

Over the 20th century, numerous paths - starting from the Vatican Council II - have led to this common conscience. The prayer meeting for Peace in Assisi - wanted by St. John Paul II in 1986 - was a turning point. That is why we are used to speaking of the "spirit of Assisi".

The meaning of "religions coming together" was underlined by the President of the Italian Republic, Mr. Mattarella: "The testimony of religions is a prophecy that can help the world to shake off resignation, distrust and resentment". It demonstrates that it is "blasphemy" to sanctify hatred and violence through religious ideologies. It does not mean indulging in syncretism, only good for elitist alchemies or to create organisations of religions, but rather sprinkling believers’ lives with a spirit of peace. Indeed, if many can fuel violence and terrorism in our contemporary world, many can build up peace even as simple artisans.

The world is becoming increasingly indifferent to "other people's wars": it is the result of being self-absorbed. There are too many ongoing wars bearing bitter fruits - refugees, boy and girls deprived from their childhood. The world must be saved together from war: “God, said the Pope, will hold to account those who failed to seek peace, or fomented tensions and conflicts, for each day, month and year of war that has passed…”. And the Great Imam of Al-Azhar, through his representative, concluded his speech with an invitation: "Let us bring back on people’s face the smile torn by wars and conflicts”.

Prayer and peace are an integral part of all religious traditions, even if they are so different. Religions do not only speak to politicians and diplomats (even though the Pope said: "Peace is the priority of all politics"), they collect everyone’s small and large actions, all victims’ tears, all the humble people’s invocations, thus showing the "weak force" of peace. Paul Ricoeur rightly wrote: "Religions have a meaning, they liberate the basis of goodness of humanity, they seek it wherever it is  hidden".