Pope Francis on God’s Universal Fatherhood

Pope Francis recently said all people have God as their Father. Is that true?
Pope Francis recently said all people have God as their Father. Is that true? (photo: Register Files)

Pope Francis has a new video out in which he offers a prayer intention for the month of January.

And some people are freaking out about it.

Here are 10 things to know and share . . .


1) Where can I watch the video?

Right here:

Also, you can use this link.


2) What does Pope Francis say in the video?

He says:

Most of the planet’s inhabitants declare themselves believers.

This should lead to dialogue among religions.

We should not stop praying for it [i.e., dialogue] and collaborating with those who think differently.

Many think differently, feel differently, seeking God or meeting God in different ways.

In this crowd, in this range of religions, there is only one certainty we have for all: We are all children of God.

I hope you will spread my prayer request this month: “That sincere dialogue among men and women of different faiths may produce the fruits of peace and justice.”

I have confidence in your prayers.


3) What else happens in the video?

The video features a Buddhist lama, a Jewish rabbi, a Catholic priest, and a Muslim leader.

They say things like “I believe in God” and “I believe in love,” and they hold symbols of their faiths.


4) Is it somehow wrong for the Catholic priest in the video to hold a figurine of the baby Jesus instead of a Crucifix to symbolize his faith? Was that done—wrongly—out of deference to Muslim sensibilities?

There is nothing wrong with holding a figurine of the baby Jesus. This is a symbol we see every Christmas—and other times of the year.

The Crucifix is not the only symbol of Christianity.

Further, the choice of a baby Jesus figurine certainly wasn’t done out of deference to Muslim sensibilities. Muslims don’t like any devotional representations of the human form. As Wikipedia notes:

Human representation for the purpose of worship is considered idolatry and is duly forbidden in Islamic law, known as Sharia law


5) I don’t like this video. It’s not to my taste. What do you think of that?

Fine. Not everything is to everyone’s taste. Not everything in it is to my taste.

The people who made the video were trying to make it inspiring and uplifting, but that involves subjective elements, and you know what they say: De gustibus non est disputandum.

Not liking or even criticizing the video is one thing, but there is no cause here to freak out as if the pope were doing something contrary to the faith.


6) What about him saying that we should dialogue with people of other religions?

That would be true. In fact, that’s something that has always been part of the Christian religion.

Christians have always talked to non-Christians—sometimes about the gospel and sometimes about other things.

Pope Francis is asking that we talk to them about justice and peace.

News flash: Those are okay things to talk to non-Christians about.


7) What about where he says that people of different religions are “seeking God or meeting God in different ways”?

That’s also true. And the fact he distinguishes seeking God from meeting God is important.

He’s not saying that people of every religion meet God. Some religions (e.g., Buddhism) only involve a seeking after the divine through the religious impulse built into man, but they do not involve a direct encounter with the true God.

Other religions, such as Christianity, do involve a direct encounter with God.

By making the distinction he does, Pope Francis acknowledges both realities.


8) What about when he says, “In this crowd, in this range of religions, there is only one certainty we have for all: We are all children of God”?

The bit about this being the “only one certainty” we have is a hyperbolic, poetic flourish. It’s not meant to be taken literally. We have other certainties, too.

If it’s not to your taste, fine. It’s meant to be poetic, and de gustibus and all that.


9) What about the “We are children of God” part? Aren’t only Christians children of God by virtue of their baptism?

No. There are different senses in which one can be a child of God:

  • Jesus is the Son of God in a unique sense shared by no one else.
  • Christians are children of God by their baptism.
  • Other people are children of God in other senses.


10) Can you back that up?

Yup. Here are some examples from the Old Testament, where Christian baptism was not in view:

You are the sons of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead (Deut. 14:1).

Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly; and David said: “Blessed art thou, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, for ever and ever (1 Chr. 29:10).

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation (Ps. 68:5).

For thou art our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us; thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer from of old is thy name (Is. 63:16).

Yet, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou art our potter; we are all the work of thy hand (Is. 64:8).

Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? (Mal. 2:10).

For if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries (Wis. 2:18).

I. Could. Go. On.

The Catechism states:

Many religions invoke God as "Father". The deity is often considered the "father of gods and of men." In Israel, God is called "Father" inasmuch as he is Creator of the world. Even more, God is Father because of the covenant and the gift of the law to Israel, "his first-born son." God is also called the Father of the king of Israel. Most especially he is "the Father of the poor," of the orphaned and the widowed, who are under his loving protection.

By calling God "Father," the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children (CCC 238-239).

There is thus a sense in which God is the Father of all mankind. This does not take away from the unique sense in which Jesus is the Son of God or the special sense in which we become children of God by baptism, but it is nonetheless true. And there are other senses of God’s fatherhood as well, some of which are listed above.


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