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Pope supports Jewish-Catholic project for social justice


VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A person who helps others but does not worship God is a “good atheist,” while someone who claims to believe in God but does not do anything to help others “is a cynic, a liar,” Pope Francis said. Meeting with a delegation from the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the pope supported their proposal to launch a series of educational programs aimed at helping Christians and Jews in Latin America tap into their common spiritual heritage to become “agents of social change.”

Local and national media in University City, Mo., report on more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones Feb. 21, 2017, after a weekend vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery near St. Louis. (CNS photo/Tom Gannam, Reuters)

Rabbi Ariel Stofenmacher, rector of the seminary, said in a statement that they saw Pope Francis as a key ally in harnessing religious teachings to combat indifference, the breakdown of the family, growing social conflicts, “the disenchantment with democracy,” hopelessness, addiction and “the madness of new wars.”

Speaking without a prepared text to the group Dec. 2, Pope Francis said he was not kidding when he told them that when a religious leader speaks of justice, echoing the prophets’ call to care for the orphan, the widow, the stranger, the poor – often detractors will “tell you that you are a communist. And look, they say to me: ‘This pope, instead of talking about God, is talking about social things.'” But the two go together, he said. Throughout the Bible, believers are called to love God and love their neighbor, “that is, worship and serve, worship and help.”