Invite to Pope could lead to private visit to St Andrews

Could Pope Francis be on his way to St Andrews?
Could Pope Francis be on his way to St Andrews?
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Pope Francis could be a visitor to St Andrews later this year, after he was invited to a special event at St Andrews University.

Mario Aguilar, Professor of Divinity has invited the Pope to sign the St Andrews Declaration on a Shared Humanity which, it is hoped, could be used as a tool against radicalisation.

If Pope Francis accepts Prof Aguilar’s invitation, he will be part of an international delegation of religious leaders visiting the town in September to mark the culmination of the Year of Interfaith Dialoguer.

But despite the invitation to the Pope being widely publicised, a spokesman for the Catholic Church said only: “We congratulate St Andrews University for issuing this invitation and would be delighted to welcome the Holy Father to Scotland while also recognising that the global popularity of Pope Francis means that he receives vastly more invites than he can possibly accept.”

However, Prof Aguilar was more optimistic: “I have had an indication that his visit is being considered,” he said, after being told by Rome that it was tentatively in the Pope’s calendar.

If Pope Francis does visit St Andrews it will be a private occasion, not attracting the ceremony that surrounded visits by Pope Benedict in 2010 and Pope John Paul II in 1982 – the first papal visit to Scotland.

Prof Aguilar has met Pope Francis on several occasions and wrote a biography of the pontiff in 2014.

His 10-point St Andrews Declaration on a Shared Humanity incorporates the teachings of different faiths and embraces the basic principles of humanity, equality, diversity and freedom.

It is hoped it will be used in schools and by community and faith groups around the world, to form discussion and foster the idea of a common humanity as a tool against radicalisation.

Prof Aguilar has invited religious leaders and scholars to a three-day series of special events, prayers and lectures, culminating in the signing of the Declaration.

It will be signed by members of the Christian churches, Hindu communities from the UK and India, ambassadors of Muslim nations, leaders of the UK Jewish community and the representative of the Dalai Lama.

The signing will be followed by a public lecture by Prof Francis X Clooney, the Director of the Centre for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University, and the launch of Prof Aguilar’s monograph on the Christian-Hindu dialogue.

The three-day event is the culmination of the Year of Interfaith Dialogue, an initiative started by Prof Aguilar to stimulate conversation about the commonalities between the different faiths of the world. It was launched in September by the Dalai Lama and Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.

Prof Aguilar hopes: “The declaration will become a contribution to discussions on the role of religions against false extremism not only within Scotland and Europe but also within many other nations in the world.”