Pope Francis has incited further controversy by signing a joint statement with a Grand Imam, saying that a “pluralism and diversity” of religions is “willed by God.”

The Pope signed the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” with Ahmad el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar Mosque, during an interreligious meeting in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

The document on Human Fraternity invites “all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together so that it may serve as a guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and sisters.”

The passage inciting controversy reads:

Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept.

A Dominican theologian who wished to remain anonymous said the controversial passage “in its obvious sense is false, and in fact heretical.”

“The various religions say incompatible things about who God is and how He wants to be worshipped. Therefore they cannot all be true. Therefore God, who is truth, cannot will all religions,” he explained.

Permitting something is not a way of willing it, it is a way of not willing to prevent it. Thus God permits many innocent people to be killed, but He does not will it. We would not talk about God’s permissive will for Jews to be gassed, for example. the diversity of religions is due to sin and so is not willed and caused by God. We can say that it ‘comes under His Providence,’ but then so does everything, even the worst crimes.”

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