Pope Francis greets Father Guillermo Marco, Muslim leader Omar Abboud and Rabbi Daniel Goldman, co-chairs of the Argentine Institute for Interreligious Dialogue, Nov. 18, 2019, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace. (CNS Photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Interreligious dialogue is an important means of countering fundamentalist groups as well as the unjust accusation that religions sow division, Pope Francis has said.

During a meeting with members of the Argentine Institute for Interreligious Dialogue on November 18, the pope said that “in today’s precarious world, dialogue between religions is not a weakness. It finds its reason for being in God’s dialogue with humanity.

Recalling a scene from the 11th-century poem, “The Song of Roland,” in which Christians threatened Muslims “to choose between baptism or death,” the pope denounced the fundamentalist mentality that “we can neither accept nor understand and can no longer function”.

“We have to beware of fundamentalist groups; each (religion) has its own. In Argentina, there are fundamentalist corners there,” he said. “Fundamentalism is a scourge and all religions have a fundamentalist first cousin,” he said.

According to its website, the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue was founded in Buenos Aires in 2002 and was inspired by then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as a way to “promote understanding between men and women of different religious traditions in our city and in the world”.

The pope welcomed the members of the institute who are in Rome to reflect on the document on “human fraternity” and the improvement of relations between Christians and Muslims, which was signed on February 4 by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar and a leading religious authority for many Sunni Muslims.

The intent of the document, the pope explained, was a way to embrace a “culture of dialogue” while respecting everyone’s unique identity.

“That’s the key: identity cannot be negotiated because if you negotiate your identity, there is no dialogue, there is submission. Each (religion) with its own identity is on the path “of dialogue”, he said.

The “complex human reality” of brotherhood, the pope continued, can be seen in Scripture when God asks Cain where his brother is.

This same question needs to be asked today and lead members of all faiths to consider ways to become “channels of brotherhood instead of walls of division”, he said.

To see the dangers of fundamentalism, Christians must also reflect on their own history, he said, including the Thirty Years’ War, which began in 1618 as a conflict between Catholic and Protestant states, and the massacre of St. Bartholomew of 1572, which saw the targeted killings of Huguenots by Catholic mobs in France.

“A little history should scare us,” the pope said. “Whoever doesn’t feel scared inside should ask themselves why.”

Pope Francis said he hoped the document on “human fraternity” would be “welcomed by the international community, for the good of the human family which must move from mere tolerance to true and peaceful coexistence”.

“It is important to show that we believers are a factor of peace for human societies and in doing so, we will respond to those who unjustly accuse religions of inciting hatred and provoking violence,” he said. Pope.