Wisdom, Prophecy, and the Guidance of Humanity

Pope John XXIII and Bediuzzaman Said Nursi

  • Leo D Lefebure
Keywords: Catholic social teaching; (Pope) John XXIII (Angelo Roncalli); Nursi, Said; prophecy; Vatican Council II; Wisdom (Chokmah, hikmah, Sophia)


While there are major differences between their respective religious paths and personal lives, there are also important areas of convergence between the beliefs and practices of Pope John XXIII (formerly Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli) and Said Nursi. Both saw a world of massive injustice, inequality and violence; both saw humans on their own as unable to meet these challenges; and both found resources to guide humanity in the wisdom of their respective religious traditions. Both worked tirelessly to actualise the promise of peace of their particular religious paths. Both believed in religious freedom. Roncalli knew and respected Muslims from his years serving as a papal envoy in Sofia, Bulgaria, and in Istanbul. As Pope John XXIII, he changed Catholic teaching by affirming for the first time in Catholic history the right of religious freedom. Nursi interpreted the Islamic heritage of prophecy and wisdom in relation to the challenges of his context. Pope John and Nursi drew lessons from the prophets of their traditions to guide contemporary believers. Both stand as beacons of hope for humanity in the 21st century. Nursi and Pope John appreciated the deep anxieties of their contemporaries over the many threats and uncertainties of modern life; both knew the havoc that can be brought by unchecked human passions. Submission to God as the one sure path to peace was at the very centre of Nursi’s understanding of Islam and human life. It was also central to Pope John’s understanding of Christian discipleship.