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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis and a top Muslim envoy have met to discuss the implementation of the pontiff's Catholic-Muslim Abu Dhabi declaration and progress made on building the proposed Abrahamic interfaith shrine.
Two days after the meeting, HCHF announced that Pope Francis and Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmad al-Tayyeb had "identified the document on Human Fraternity as the most important humanitarian document in modern history."
The meeting with Judge Mohamed Abdel-Salam, secretary-general of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF), was not announced in the pope's official itinerary, and Vatican News did not report the meeting.
Sources told Church Militant that the July 31 meeting was held in anticipation of the first anniversary of the formation of the HCHF, which falls on the Feast of the Assumption.
The meeting is said to have focused on the work carried out over the year by the HCHF on its projects and initiatives, especially on the building of the three-faiths worship center — the Abrahamic Family House — which is expected to be built by June or July 2022.
In comments to Church Militant, eminent Islamic scholar Robert Spencer explained how "the Abrahamic Family House is based on a false premise."
"In speaking of Abraham, Pope Francis probably thinks of Genesis 22:15–18, in which Abraham is rewarded for his faith and told he will become a blessing to the nations: 'by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice,'" Spencer said.
"But Muslims don't consider Genesis to be Scripture, or for the most part even read it. They read the Qur'an," Spencer noted.
"In Sura 60, Allah says that Abraham is an 'excellent example' (uswa hasana, أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ, a term applied also to Muhammad in 33:21) for the believers when he tells his pagan family and people that 'there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred forever, unless you believe in Allah and him alone' (60:4)," Spencer explained.
"The same verse goes on to say that Abraham is not an excellent example when he tells his father, 'I will pray for forgiveness for you.' Hatred is held up as exemplary; forgiveness is explicitly declared to be not exemplary," he noted.
"The Abrahamic Family House thus promotes a commonality of faith and an openness and mutuality that simply isn't present from the Islamic side," observed Spencer, author of best-selling The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam.
An HCHF statement stressed that the Holy Father, during the meeting, expressed his "keenness to activate the [human fraternity] document globally" and "turn its principles into reality."
The interfaith shrine, which the pontiff is enthusiastically promoting, bundles together a mosque orientated toward Mecca, a church with its altar facing east towards the sun, and a synagogue with its podium and Torah facing Jerusalem.
The three temples will share a similar silhouette symbolizing unity but vary in their facades and interiors, with vaults for the mosque, screens for the synagogue and colonnades for the church.
The multifaith complex designed by Adjaye Associates under the supervision of British architect Sir David Adjaye OBE will be built on Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates, not far from the new Louvre Abu Dhabi, an art and civilization museum.
The decision to build the complex was a result of Pope Francis' Abu Dhabi meeting with the Grand Imam al-Tayyeb (Sunni Islam's top religious leader) in February 2019.
Human rights organizations have highlighted systemic exploitation of migrant workers on Saadiyat Island used to build elite vanity projects.
Abuses include forced labor, employers withholding wages and benefits, failing to reimburse migrant laborers for recruiting fees, confiscating workers' passports and housing them in substandard accommodation.
The HCHF has also stated that its goal is to "translate the principles of the document on Human Fraternity into policies, resolutions, legislative texts, educational curricula, information materials, and effect initiatives to help humanity find security, tolerance and peace."
The document "is the most important of its kind in the modern history of interfaith dialogue," it emphasized.
But Spencer told Church Militant that "the Abu Dhabi declaration and the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity is a massive exercise in deception on the one side and wishful thinking on the other."
"Ahmad al-Tayyeb did not and could not change Islamic doctrine when he signed the pact; the calls in Islamic texts and teachings for warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers remain unchallenged," Spencer maintained.
"The declaration's statement that terrorism is a perversion of religious doctrine is false and misleading and breeds a dangerous complacency among Catholics," he said.
"The implementation of this untrue and pernicious document can only mean more trouble for the Church, as the truth about the jihad threat against Christians is further stigmatized and marginalized," Spencer warned.