Open Letter to Pope Francis from India

When recently, on a visit to southern India, I saw so many new churches , I got the idea to write an open letter to Pope Francis. He is getting a lot of praise for his ‘bold’ statements in the west. However, so far he only talks about ‘respectful coexistence of religions’. He needs to walk his talk and stop conversion. Here is my letter:

Respected Holy Father,

Great hope for a positive change in the Catholic Church is pinned on your Pontificate and recent statements indicate that this hope may not be misplaced. The future, your Holiness said in November 2013, is in the “respectful coexistence of diversity and in the fundamental right to religious freedom in all its dimensions, and not in muting the different voices of religion”.

This statement makes eminent sense and would need to be implemented by all who presently do not subscribe to a respectful coexistence of diversity in regard to religions. However, I sense (wrongly maybe) that it is a plea for other religions to respect Christianity, rather than a commitment by the Church to respect other religions. To be precise, since Christians are occasionally persecuted in Islamic countries, it seems to be an appeal to ‘live and let live’ between the two biggest religions on earth.

Your Holiness is aware that both, Christianity and Islam, claim to be the only true religion and their God, respectively Allah alone is true. Both religions further hold that all people on earth have to accept this claim and join their particular religion to be saved and reach heaven or paradise. Both give a serious warning to those who don’t join: they will land up eternally in hell. These claims of exclusiveness are made without any evidence whatsoever, apart from the fact that the claims contradict each other, as both cannot be true. They require blind belief, and as blind, unreasonable belief is not natural for human beings, for many centuries it was enforced with state power and indoctrinated right from childhood with the fear of hell as the boogeyman.

May I ask Your Holiness to ponder how the respectful coexistence of diversity and the fundamental right to religious freedom is possible as long as these claims of exclusiveness are in place? Were these claims originally made to gain political power or were they made in the interest of the spiritual welfare of humanity? And may I also ask whether Your Holiness personally believes in these claims?

I trust that privately, Your Holiness does not believe in them, as media reported your statement that good atheists also will be redeemed. In other words, they won’t go automatically to hell. However, the Vatican took pains to clarify that Your Holiness did not mean it. Even my mother, 95 and a staunch Catholic all her life, expressed dismay that a perfectly sensible statement by the Pope was watered down.

Your Holiness may feel compelled for worldly reasons to stick to the claim of exclusiveness as dropping it would entail wrapping up all conversion attempts and in the process lose power, wealth and influence. Further there may be fear that other Christian denominations will not go along and will gain an advantage over the Catholic Church. Still another worry may be that Islam will not drop the claim of exclusiveness and will push aggressively for conversion.

However, the Catholic Church was the first institution to put up this baseless claim, which has brought unspeakable disaster upon humankind. From this claim the Church derived not only the ‘right’, but the ‘duty’ to storm across the globe and impose forcefully her ‘belief system’ – in Europe, in the Americas and in Africa and now in Asia. It was no doubt an ingenious ploy to claim that God wants everyone to become Christian. . Mark Twain famously said, “Religion was born when the first con-man met the first fool”. I would change it, “Dogmatic religion was born when ….”.

Some centuries later, Islam followed suit, claiming that Allah wants everyone to accept Islam, and we all know the violent conflicts resulting from those unsubstantiated claims. Since the Catholic Church started this disastrous trend, she needs to reverse it. The welfare of humanity as a whole has to be the concern and not the welfare of a religious institution. Hopefully Your Holiness has the courage to make a real, clear change for the better and will not fall for hairsplitting theological arguments, like ‘redemption is possible but not salvation’, etc.

Most Christians especially in Europe don’t believe anymore in unreasonable claims. The sad thing is that together with the dogmas, many reject belief in God altogether. They have not learnt to listen to their conscience and to enquire into truth, as the Church has played the role of the conscience- and truth-keeper for too long. The consequences for our societies are there for everyone to see.

However, many Christians do start pondering and believe in a ‘great power’, but not in the Christian God. For example, when I asked some fifty Christians in Germany whether they believe that Hindus who heard about Jesus Christ, but do not convert, will go to hell, nobody said yes. Even a priest said no. And not a single German I met was in favour of missionary activity in India. Yet Pope John Paul II declared in India the intention of the Church to plant the cross in Asia in the new millennium and considered India as a field for a rich harvest, which goes completely against ‘respectful coexistence’.

I live in India since 33 years and can assert with full confidence that India has no need of Christian missionaries, and yet huge sums of money are being pumped in to lure converts with material benefits and to build churches. I am aware that Your Holiness is responsible only for Catholics and not for the myriad of other Christian denominations that prey on poor Hindus, but if the Catholic Church made a start of truly respecting Hindus, it would have a big impact.

Maybe Your Holiness is under the impression that Hinduism is a depraved religion and Hindus would do well to accept the Christian God instead of their multiple gods. Such an impression would be completely wrong. There is no other religion that is –unjustly – denigrated as badly as Hinduism. Sorry to say that Christian (including Catholic) missionaries are in the forefront of this vilification campaign. Few people in the west know how profound India’s ancient tradition is. A solid philosophical basis for our existence and helpful tenets for a fulfilling, meaningful life had been known in India long before ‘religions’, as we know them today, came into being. The only addition Christianity brought in anew, are unverifiable dogmas that cannot possibly have a bearing on the absolute Truth. Can an event in history impact the absolute Truth? Will Truth make a distinction between people who are baptized and those who are not? “There is no salvation outside the Church” is, and I may be excused for using strong language, ridiculous.

The Indian rishis had discovered ages ago that an all-pervading Presence is at the core of this universe, indescribable, but best described as absolute consciousness. Further, the Hindu law of karma preceded the Christian dictum “as you sow so you reap’. A Council stopped Christians from believing in rebirth which would explain many riddles that trouble them, for example why there is great injustice already at birth? The advantage of having a perfect person as a friend and guide on the spiritual path was known in India, but till some 2000 years ago nobody claimed that ‘only’ Krishna or ‘only’ Ram or ‘only’ Buddha can lead to salvation and that whoever does not believe it, goes to hell. “Truth is One, the wise call it by many names”, the Indian rishis declared and listed different names of gods. That was at a time, when Christianity was nowhere in sight. Surely they would have included ‘God’ as another name and Jesus as an avatar, not expecting to be backstabbed by followers of “God” declaring: “Truth is one and must be called only by one name and is fully revealed only in one book.”

The multiple gods in Hinduism are personified powers that help to access the formless, nameless Presence that is in all of us. Christians in India are told that Hindu gods are devils. At the same time, Christianity tries to revive (possibly inspired by Hinduism) belief in angels, as devotion for the Invisible is easier by focusing on images.

Hinduism is not a belief system. It is a knowledge system. It is a genuine enquiry into what is true about us and the world. Hindus are not required to believe anything that does not make sense and can never be verified. There is complete freedom. Yes, most believe in rebirth, which makes sense. Most believe in an all pervading Brahman (many other names are in use) that is also in humans. Most believe that this divine essence can be experienced in oneself, if the person purifies herself by certain disciplines coupled with devotion. This belief is verifiable. It is not blind. There were many Rishis who realized their oneness with Brahman. In Christianity, too, there were mystics who experienced oneness with the Divine like Meister Eckhart did. Sadly, he was excommunicated by the Church. Why is the Church resisting scientific insight that there is some mystery essence in everything? And why is it difficult to accept that in the long, long history of humanity, there were several, not only one, outstanding personalities who showed the way to the truth?

Holy Father, I request you in all sincerity to be such an outstanding personality who guides his followers on a path of expansion, and does not straight-jacket them into an unbelievable belief system, which among others demands converting Hindus to Christianity. Your Holiness is venerated as the representative of the Highest Power in this universe by over a billion of Catholics. Many of your predecessors were not worthy of this veneration. Utmost truthfulness and integrity are required. Calculations about worldly power must not come in the way. The Catholic Church surely would benefit, not lose out, if it honors Truth and gives up its claim that there is no salvation outside the Church. Truth cannot be cheated; neither can it be contained in a book. Truth is what we basically are. Hindus, whose religion is universal and all-encompassing, respect diverse traditions. They are one of the most cultured, gentle and peace-loving people on earth who live and let live, unless greatly provoked.

Holy Father, if you are serious about respecting other religions, the claim of exclusiveness must be scrapped and Hindus who have given to the world a deep philosophy and a great culture, must be respected. Many of us look forward to hearing truly good news from the Catholic Church under your stewardship. The main issue that plagues the Church is not whether women should be priests or whether divorcees can take Holy Communion .The main issue is the unfounded claim of exclusiveness regarding ‘salvation’. It divides humanity into us who are right and saved, versus them who are wrong and damned. Kindly drop this harmful claim and make your Pontificate truly memorable and beneficial for all humanity.

Yours Sincerely

Maria Wirth

Posted as registered letter to Pope Francis on 10th  December 2013 from Puducherry, India

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105 comments

  1. Dr Himanshu Kumar · · Reply

    Dear mari ji krishna incarhnates day in and day out in your heart and makes you say truth everytimeIt would be nice meeting a divine person lie you.Where you live presently
    Dr Himanshu kumar

  2. Charu Rajagopalan · · Reply

    One of the most lucid and revealing presentations-truly unbiased and very fair. Wish there were many more such people!

  3. suchindranathaiyer · · Reply

    Outside of the “Church”, we, the Illuminati, have always known that Paul embraced the temptations of Satan repudiated by Jesus and turned Christianity into an Empire through Charlemagne. For this, a Council was formed that cherry picked gospels suitable for the purpose and discarded the rest. This is why present day Christians cannot perform the miracles that Jesus’ original disciples could despite claiming to be following in Jesus’ foot steps. We also know that Christianity not only failed Jesus, but also failed Satan as it got corrupted by various human virtues such as mercy, compassion, and love. This is why Satan set Christianity aside, possessed Mahomet and founded Islam.

    1. well said, suchindra ji…very concise and deep..

  4. Reality_Strikes · · Reply

    I feel so proud as a Indian & Ironic at the same time, with the kind of articles you are writing. ironic,because some unpatriotic elements are encouraging in diffusing the rich culture of India and yet you, someone who’s adopted India as your home, truly feels disturbed when trouble is at home. I guess not,but have you received any response to this letter?. May I suggest, you post this as a reply to one of his tweets?

    @Swapzz 🙂

    1. no, i have not received a reply and frankly did not expect one. i have tweeted the link to him several times. it may have reached.

      Already in 1984 i wrote in German an article “Christianity – no thank you?” about the reaction of youngsters in Germany at that time, (from the the famous slogan “atomic power – no thank you”). so i may be already on some list of the Vatican…

      1. Wonderfully well written. My daughter’s ethics teacher doesn’t know much about Hinduism. Is this exact letter available in a German version? I think it would help me tremendously if I could share this with her, but in German. Some people in remote places of Europe haven’t heard of Hinduism and though in 2016, are much more open minded in their thinking, still could do with a lot more awareness.

  5. Your letter is wonderful and comparison between the religious beliefs are really acceptable, what you wrote is bitter truth in india , especially in south india. The missionaries are exploiting mostly economically backward classes and isolated classes, Even I have be experienced. Your article is superb. . Thanks Madem

  6. Believe in your way …
    This is what Hindu philosophy all about
    Great observation by Maria.
    Many observed this truth but less people talk openly like this.

  7. When is Pope Francis giving public proclaimation to treat every religion as equal?

    Typically when a Christian preaches religious tolerance and harmony, they mean that (Islamic) nations should treat their Christian minorities better and not persecute them. They definitely do not mean that Christianity should respect other faiths or th…

  8. Can we abolish Religion?

    Simplistic reductionist question. Answer is NO. But we can definitely reform religions. Starting with getting rid of Proselytizing, which would reduce the friction points, between religions. https://mariawirthblog.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/open-letter-t…

  9. C.K.N.Thampi · · Reply

    Very educative writing.Thanks for sending the same

  10. The letter is truly should be an eye opener for muslim as well as christains. What a hypocritical stand they take when it comes to religion. Being a major religions of the world, they dorectly or indirectly compete for patronage.
    In 1968, I personally involved is a research project in untouchable community so, the missionary can explore the opportunities to indoctrinate untouchables by offering monetary benefits in return of alliance to their cause.
    Pop goes around the world claiming to care for humanity (Selectively on a low profile basis).
    It will be an educational and an eye opener for both religions to investigate how old is Hinduism. May be answer the absence of Christ.

    I do not think one should hold the breath for any constructive change to take place any time soon.

    Shantu

  11. Veerbadra · · Reply

    Perfectly straight, to the point, simple yet completely covering the issue of conversion. But will Pope understands and responds?

  12. good article, but writer seems ill-informed about hinduism. He tends to equate hinduism with maya-advait sect of sri sankar which is 1 of many. This sect has been vociferously criticized for its logical fallacies and scriptural un-tenability. Writer is ,I guess, bemused by political correctness of neo-advait!!

    1. your guess is wrong. i am not “bemused by political correctness of neo-advait”. For me, advaita (Kashmir Shaivism, and also Adi Shankara) makes sense. the ultimate, absolute truth (which can only be pointed at by words, but never expressed in words) is one.
      on a relative level, dwaita is also true, but not absolutely true.
      pls see https://mariawirthblog.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/blind-spot-of-modern-science/

      1. So than you accept being biased in favour of Advait. Thats all I pointed out that Advait is not all of hinduism. It might be your personal favorite but we have had more than 1200 years when this school was first pointed out for its logical fallacies by other great masters belonging to other sects.

        Now this is a monumental task to repeat all that in this forum so I apologies but the fact is that in india lately there are schools which are praised without being read and there are some which r criticized without being read.

        try reading Gaudpad karika to see how close it is to madhyamika karika! It takes years of practice to even read it. Westerners tend to like it because of its exotic appeal not based on orthodox studies.

        Though in classical india personal opinions are respected but scriptural validity is also very important. If you want to believe ‘…the ultimate ….is one’ thats fine I’am not challenging your democratic rights to do that.

      2. my reaction was mainly to your charge of wanting to be “politically correct”, because this is surely not correct. i am straight forward and frank. i am used to being politically incorrect and certainly not afraid of it. This article shows what i mean https://mariawirthblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/is-hindu-dharma-good-and-hindutva-bad/

      3. But apart from that I do agree with the main theme of article. Christain proslytization is a big issue.
        To add to your point here are some other dirty things you can add:

        – Jesus Mudra of yoga
        – Christian Bharatnatyam
        – Secula manipuri dance
        – Patients forced to declare their religion in hospitals run by missinaries.

        many more. I admire your effort to speak.

  13. Rational Guru · · Reply

    There is no spirituality left in organised missionary religions of the world. Real religion has to bring about a transformation of heart .. Such a heart is full of compassion, love, generosity and humility .. These qualities unfortunately rarely found in religious people from organised religions, but commonly found in the hearts of common Indians .. Such organised religions are therefore waste of resources and are not required to exist

  14. […] December 1o, 2013 · by MW · in Uncategorized · 93 Comments […]

  15. Joe Nair · · Reply

    @Maria Wirth: Swami Vivekananda said “It is mockery to offer religion to a starving man” He also anguished “What have we several million sanyasins been doing for the (starving) masses? Teaching them metaphysics? It is all madness …” Hinduism as an ideal which you wrote about is no longer prevalent in India. It died about 2000 years ago when the caste dominated culture got forcefully established during the Gupta period, the so called golden era of India. Perhaps that is why a messiah was born, though outside India, but surely influenced by the spiritual thoughts of that times. Christ spoke about the downtrodden, the masses, the underprivileged; if a recent book “Zealot” is to be believed, he even fought for their rights. In India, many many spiritual leaders came and went after that, no one raised their voices for the downtrodden and the lowest of the low. Indian history is written on the silent bodies of these victims.

    What goes around, comes around, it is the unavoidable Karmic cycle. Since you believe in the Karmic equality, you will no doubt agree with me that India has to pay for the centuries of Brahminical oppression of its underprivileged. I see no reason to bemoan the fact that a smart Dalit is converting to Christianity (or Islam) to enjoy the benefits heaped on them by the church while retaining their Hindu identity to claim their rights under the reservation system. After all, isn’t that what the great Swami spoke about, to first feed the hungry mouths, to give the lowest of the low the ability to claim their rightful place with dignity and pride amongst the so called upper caste and privileged classes. How does it matter to Hinduism, which as you yourself said recognises that all religions are effectively different paths to the divine, if the convert places his trust in Christ as devoutly as he did in Ganesh or Krishna just a while back?

  16. Joe Nair · · Reply

    @Rational Guru: “There is no spirituality left in organised missionary religions …” You erred grievously my friend, when you put the word “missionary” there. If you eliminate that word, I agree with you in totality. All organised religions including the so called versions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism we see around are defunct and devoid of spirituality. They are all power centres, they provide “opium for the masses…” and collect heavy price for their addiction, price not always monetarily, but price by dragging down the collective progress of humanity towards a higher ground.

  17. […] Source: Open Letter to Pope Francis […]

  18. Reblogged this on sudhasarathi61 and commented:
    sincere attempt in the name of God.

  19. Dear Ms Wirth
    Thank you for this effort at writing a letter to the Pope.

  20. […] Source: Open Letter to Pope Francis from India […]

  21. Hi Mariaji
    I came across your letter only today as a followon to a facebook post and would like to express my appreciation for such a lucid, logical, sensible and appealing letter that should bring home the point to any balanced student of the Spiritual.
    I particularly liked your outline of the power play between the different Middle-East faiths possibly determining the agenda for conversions in India.
    Thanks.

  22. Ms Maria Wirth seems to have completely misunderstood the essence of Christianity. Faith and Good Works go hand in hand. If we have faith, we cannot but do good works.

    Bible scriptures:

    For it is by Grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works

    14 What [doth it] profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone..(James 2:14,17)

    John 3:21
    “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light,

    James 2:26
    For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

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