On Heaven and Earth by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka

popeOn March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio became pope to 1.2 billion Catholics around the world. In the book On Heaven and Earth, which contains a series of conversations between Bergoglio and a Buenos Aires rabbi, his friend Abraham Skorka, Bergoglio mentions Francis of Assisi. He says that Francis “contributed an entire concept about poverty to Christianity in the face of wealth, pride and vanity of the civil and ecclesial powers of the time. He carried out a mysticism of poverty, of dispossession and he has changed history.”

Bergoglio’s veneration of the medieval friar and preacher turned out to be so profound that he decided to choose the papal name of Francis when he was elected pope. The name may be viewed as little more than a symbolic gesture, but throughout his life Bergoglio has been inspired by Saint Francis in words and deeds. In Argentina and Buenos Aires he became known as a man who believed in inclusion instead of exclusion, and his willingness to get involved in interreligious dialogues was at times frowned upon.

On Heaven and Earth is just that, a series of interreligious dialogues – in this case between Judaism and the Catholic branch of Christianity. Abraham Skorka and Jorge Mario Bergoglio met for years to discuss different matters and the book is a wonderful testament of where (at least some) representatives of these two paths can be found today.

The two men have a profound belief in dialogue and their world view is complex and intriguing – a far cry from the black and white reality of fundamentalists and media. Media, of course, only pays attention to religion when there is some kind of scandal (or when a well-known representative of a religious path visits the land), and hardly ever do men like Bergoglio and Skorka get the opportunity to share their knowledge and wisdom via media.

But in their book, the rabbi and (then) cardinal can share what they have learned over the years, and their discussions have some truly practical implications. “To search for ways,” Bergoglio says, “is a prophecy toward unity.”

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