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#TFImoments: Jordan Denari Duffner and the pope’s outreach to non-Catholics

August 23, 2018
Pope Francis’ words and actions have had a profound impact on countless people of various backgrounds, interests, and beliefs. In the interviews for my upcoming documentary, The Francis Impact, I’ve heard some beautiful and concrete testimonies of this. So I created #TFIMOMENTS, a web series to share some of these profound and personal moments of connection with the pope.
Pope Francis was in office just over two months when he first referred to “atheists” during one of his then-novel morning homilies:
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! 'Father, the atheists?' Even the atheists. Everyone!”
The world was shocked by such a powerfully inclusive statement, though Francis was only articulating in simple terms the ancient Christian doctrine of salvation.
Throughout his pontificate, Francis has been this kind of “pastoral translator”: a pope who articulates mysterious and complex truths in language ordinary people can understand, including children.
In this week’s #TFImoment, author Jordan Denari Duffner recalls a powerful encounter between Pope Francis and a boy from the outskirts of Rome on April 15, 2018. Emanuele broke down in front of a microphone before he could pose a question to the pope during a public Q&A. He wanted to know if his father, a non-believer who had recently passed away, was in heaven. The pope’s pastoral response, as Jordan recalls, went far beyond reciting a doctrinal formula.
In her book, Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic, Jordan offers an accessible and penetrating reflection on her encounters with Muslims and the common ground shared by Christianity and Islam. Like Pope Francis, she believes personal encounters and building relationships foster more meaningful dialogue.
From Muslims to non-believers, Pope Francis insists on God’s love for all human beings. Time and again he’s maintained the universality of Christ’s death, and the importance of building personal relationships with people of other faiths, despite complex and unreconciled theological differences.
Concluding his homily on the morning of May 29, 2013, Pope Francis said: “If we, each doing our own part, do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. 'But I don't believe, Father, I am an atheist!' But do good: We will meet one another there."
For more information about The Francis Impact visit the official webpage.
Next #TFImoment: Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of the NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
The Francis Impact poster