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INTERVIEW: Rabbi David Rosen: Pope Francis Affirmed All Differences Are Subordinate to Our Common Humanity

Reflects on Abrahamic Faiths Initiative, Human Fraternity Document & Time With Pope

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Pope Francis affirmed all religious differences must be subordinate to our humanity…

In an interview with ZENIT, Rabbi David Rosen expressed this, following his participation last week in the Abrahamic Faiths Initiative (AFI), and their meeting with the Holy Father last Thursday.

Rabbi Rosen is the International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee and of the Institute for International Interreligious Understanding ‘Heilbrunn.’ He also was Chief Rabbi of Ireland and President of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations.

In this interview, he discusses the initiative itself, the Pope’s Document of Human Fraternity, signed with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Al Tayyeb, in Abu Dhabi in February 2019, fighting religious extremism and promoting religious freedom.

In 2005, he received a papal honor for his contribution to reconciliation between Jews and Catholics. In 2010, Queen Elizabeth II appointed him as Commander of the British Empire, due to his work in promoting interfaith dialogue and cooperation among peoples and cultures.

Here is ZENIT’s exclusive interview with Rabbi Rosen:


ZENIT: Tell us about the Abrahamic Faiths Initiative and what has been happening this week?

Some twenty four Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious leaders and representatives – eight from each tradition, were convened under the auspices of Sam Brownback , US Ambassador for Religious Freedom, to brainstorm about ways on which the three faith traditions might collaborate to counteract the violent abuse of religion in our world and to promote religious freedom.

ZENIT: Pope Francis received the group, as well. How was that encounter, and what did the Pope have to say?

It was an informal meeting with him at Domus Santa Marta, where he warmly encouraged this effort and emphasized the importance of highlighting human fraternity as the basis for advancing peace in the world. He affirmed that all other differences must be subordinated to our common humanity.

ZENIT: Why was the initiative needed? 

For as long as there is conflict in the world there is a need for more and more peace initiatives; especially when religion itself is abused, there is a need to testify to our shared conviction that such violence is a perversion of religion. However, this was also a gathering of people from diplomatic service together with religious leaders.

This collaboration is essential because often the two worlds are separated from one another and as a result there is a failure either to address the spiritual psychological foundations of conflict, or on the other hand to convene religious actors without any political involvement and thus there is no impact on the diplomatic political realm. Indeed, one might even observe that the Vatican similarly separates the interreligious offices from the diplomatic service in the Secretariat of State.

ZENIT: How are the religious representatives exploring ways to advance the Abu Dhabi Document on Human Fraternity? and combat the violent abuse of religion?

As mentioned before, ways of bringing religious and political forces together in specific contexts were discussed. We also spoke about a collaboration in addressing the major social challenges of our times and presenting a creative counter-narrative of interreligious collaboration.

ZENIT: Do you think Judaism is being well-enough represented in the initiatives, such as the committees and encounters, that have followed the publishing of the document?

As far as the actual document on Human Fraternity is concerned, not only Judaism but all other religions besides Christianity and Islam are absent.

If it is truly human fraternity that Francis wishes to promote, he should convene events such as those convened by his predecessors at Assisi, or give greater international visibility to events such as the annual interreligious meetings of the Community of Sant’Egidio.

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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