Religious fundamentalism keeps God at a distance, and keeps believers from building bridges with others, Pope Francis reflected on Sunday during a radio interview.
“Our God is a God who is close, who accompanies. Fundamentalists keep God away from accompanying his people, they divert their minds from him and transform him into an ideology. So in the name of this ideological god, they kill, they attack, destroy, slander. Practically speaking, they transform that God into a Baal, an idol,” he said in a radio interview that aired Sept. 13.
“No religion is immune from its own fundamentalisms,” he said. “In every religion there will be a small group of fundamentalists whose work is to destroy for the sake of an idea, and not reality. And reality is superior to ideas.”
The Pope said that no religion is immune from the possibility of fundamentalism. He said fundamentalism, instead of creating a bridge, creates a wall that blocks encounter with another person. It seeks ways to disagree. With fundamentalism, he said, “you can’t have friendship between peoples.”
His comments came in a wide-ranging interview with Marcelo Figueroa, an evangelical Protestant who is a personal friend of the Pope and journalist at Buenos Aires’ Radio Milenium.
In his other comments, the Pope noted that many of the faithful pour out their lives to him when he meets them.
“A priest has to be a bridge, that’s why they call him a pontiff,” he said, alluding to the original, literal meaning of “pontifex” as “bridge-builder.”
He warned of the temptation for priests and bishops to withdraw from “from those kinds of people Jesus spent Mathew 25 talking about.” The Pope compared them to legalists, the Pharisees and the Sadducees who taught the law and thought themselves to be pure.
The Pope also discussed his encyclical Laudato si’, on care for our common home.
“It’s obvious we’re mistreating creation. We’re not the friends of creation, we treat her sometimes like the worst enemy,” he said.
He noted problems like deforestation, water misuse, the depletion of fertile croplands and mineral extraction using poisonous chemicals. He stressed mankind’s mission to care for the earth and warned against “misusing creation to carry out his purposes.”
Mankind is also part of creation, and the Pope’s concerns include abuse of mankind by “a system set up to make money.”
The Pope also spoke about his firsthand experience of people who abuse friendship, something “very sacred,” for personal gain. This form of friendship “pains me,” he said.
“I have felt used by some people who have presented themselves as ‘friends’ with whom I may not have seen more than once or twice in my lifetime, and they used this for their own gain. But this is an experience which we have all undergone: utilitarian friendship,” the Pope said.