At the end of the 16th century, an Archbishop of Valencia marked its history and that of the Church, for he was elevated to the altars by pope John XXIII in 1960. Saint John de Ribera was a true Shepherd. Not satisfied with merely caring for the faithful of his diocese, he also went in search of new sheep. One of his greatest concerns was to convert the followers of Mohammed to the Catholic Faith, and after having converted them, to instruct them well in the faith. Since Our Lord died on the Cross for all, he wanted all the souls under his care to be washed in the Precious Blood of the Redeemer. This mission was so important to him, that despite the numerous responsibilities inherent to his office; he himself went to preach to the converted Moors every Sunday. In his catechism, written specifically for the use of the priests that instructed these converts, he explains:
“It deals with all the topics necessary to instruct an unbeliever in the Faith of the Gospel; and particularly he who has followed the sect of Mohammed. For it not only shows with reasons and natural convenience and the moral purity and beauty of our holy Faith, it also demonstrates the erroneousness and torpe of the sect of Mohammed. And it proceeds with such a clarity of reasons and concepts, and with such a clear style, that the care and diligence which was put into adapting and making the writing adequate for the capacity of those to be taught is easily perceived. But this in such a manner, that also the learned will discover therein the truths of our holy religion clearly presented, proven with citations from the Sacred Scriptures and declarations of the Holy Fathers.” (Catechism. Letter from the Patriarch and Archbishop of Valencia Saint John de Ribera to the rectors, preachers and confessors of his Archbishopric, p. 2-3).
In the life and writings of the holy Archbishop, we do not find anything that may be interpreted as a desire to ‘share the faith’ of the Muslims. On the contrary, thirst for souls, a sincere brotherly love, and the seriousness with which he undertook his pastoral vocation, made the necessity of demonstrating the ‘erroneous absurdity of the sect of Mohammed’ very clear. Did he act wrongly? Can we construe that the desire to save others made him unaware of the ‘common convictions’ held by the followers of Mohammed and those of Jesus Christ? The teachings expressed by Pope Paul VI three hundred years later permit us to better understand the proceedings of this saint: ‘Our religion effectively establishes with God an authentic and living relationship which the other religions do not succeed in doing, even though they have, as it were, their arms stretched out towards heaven’ (Paul VI. Apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 53, December 8, 1975)
Are there any similarities to be found between this doctrine and the teachings of Francis? Is he truly working for the salvation of the followers of the ‘sect of Mohammed’…and for the good of the Church? Read further…