As Former Pope Benedict XVI Passes Away, We Republish a Photo of the Pope Greeting His Highness the Aga Khan in 2008; and Explain the Papacy, the Hereditary Imamat and St. Peter in Ismaili Muslim and Catholic Traditions

Prepared and compiled by MALIK MERCHANT

Pope Benedict XVI, Barakah
Pope Benedict XVI, pictured in 2010. Photograph: Wikipedia/ GNU Free Documentation License

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who led the Catholic Church for nearly eight years from April 19, 2005, until his resignation on February 28, 2013, died on Saturday December 31, 2022, aged 95. Benedict’s death followed an appeal by his successor, Pope Francis I, to pray for his predecessor, with the Vatican announcing the former pontiff’s health had worsened due to “advanced age.” Pope Benedict became the first Pope to resign in six centuries. His dramatic resignation as the Head of the Catholic Church was due to his deteriorating strength, advanced age and the heavy demands of being Pope. He retired at the Mater Ecclesiae, a small monastery located inside the Vatican State City. Pope Francis I, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, visited him regularly at the monastery.

As part of his famous Apostolic Journey to France in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit to the “Institut De France” in Paris where he was presented with a gold medal by the Institut. Pope Benedict also unveiled a plaque commemorating his visit. During his very brief remarks to the audience, the Pope expressed his gratitude to the Institut “both personally and as the successor of [Simon] Peter.” (more on Simon Peter in Catholic and Ismaili Muslim traditions below.)

His Highness the Aga Khan, respectfully addressed by his Ismailis followers as Mawlana Hazar Imam (Our Lord the present and living Imam), was also in attendance at the Institut de France as the Associate Foreign Member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts (Academy of Fine Arts), one of five learned societies within the Institut which was founded in 1795.

Everyone’s attention in the hall was drawn to the 49th Ismaili Imam and Pope Benedict, with an extraordinary sense of interest and keenness, as the two faith leaders greeted each other with a handshake. We had presented a photo of this handshake on our sister website Simerg, and with the passing of Pope Benedict, we republish the photo for our readers worldwide (note: The photograph is copyright and was reproduced with a licensing arrangement with Getty Images)

Aga Khan and Pope Benedict, Barakah, a dedication to His Highness the Aga Khan
Everyone’s attention is drawn to Pope Benedict XVI and His Highness the Aga Khan as they greet each other on September 13, at the Institut de France in Paris during an official visit by the Pope to France in 2008. Photo: Copyright. Getty Images. Published on Simerg/Simergphotos with a Licensing arrangement with Getty Images. French caption: Vue plongeante du pape BENOIT XVI serrant la main de l’AGA KHAN à son arrive sous la coupole de l’Institut de France à PARIS entouré de nombreux académiciens et autres personnalités dont Gabriel DE BROGLIE, Hélène CARRERE D’ENCAUSSE, Jean-François JARRIGE, Jean-François BACH, Arnaud D’HAUTERIVES, Michel ALBERT, Christian PONCELET président du Sénat, Jean TULARD, Alain DECAUX, Pierre-Jean REMY, Michel MOHRT, Max GALLO, le cardinal André VINGT-TROIS archevêque de Paris et le cardinal Paul POUPARD. (Photo by Philippe Petit/Paris Match via Getty Images).

Over the past 15 years, there has been an increased collaboration between Catholic institutions and the work of the Ismaili Imamat, through the Aga Khan Development Network. In 2008, Mawlana Hazar Imam attended a historic signing agreement in Lisbon between the Catholic University of Portugal and the Aga Khan University. The ceremony was attended by His Eminence D. Jose Policarpo, the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon and Chancellor of the University, D. José Policarpo. In 2013, together with Cardinal Patriarch Mawlana Hazar Imam presided over the signing ceremony of a renewed Memorandum of Understanding between the two universities. Most recently, in November 2022, Mawlana Hazar Imam’s oldest son, Prince Rahim Aga Khan, visited the Vatican where he met His Excellency Reverend Dom Edgar Peña Parra, the Substitute of the Secretariat of State at the Vatican, and Pope Francis. Earlier, in May 2022, Prince Rahim had received Reverend Dom Edgar Peña Parra at the Ismaili Centre in Lisbon.

Aga Khan at Catholic University of Portugal, Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Catholic Universirty of Portugal and the Aga Khan University, on July 12, 2008. Photograph: The Aga Khan University.
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, meets with the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, His Eminence Dom Manuel Clemente and the Patriarch Emeritus of Lisbon, His Eminence Dom José Policarpo, at the Ismaili Centre in Lisbon in September 2013, Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, meets with the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, His Eminence Dom Manuel Clemente and the Patriarch Emeritus of Lisbon, His Eminence Dom José Policarpo, at the Ismaili Centre in Lisbon in September 2013 for the renewed signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Catholic University of Portugal and the Aga Khan University. Photograph: AKDN/Gary Otte.
Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Monsignor Peña Parra walk through the courtyard garden at the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon.
Prince Rahim Aga Khan and His Excellency Reverend Dom Edgar Peña Parra, the Substitute of the Secretariat of State at the Vatican, walk through the courtyard garden at the Ismaili Centre Lisbon in May 2022. Photograph: Raquel Wise/AKDN.
His Excellency Reverend Dom Edgar Peña Parra, the Substitute of the Secretariat of State at the Vatican, and Prince Rahim Aga Khan
His Excellency Reverend Dom Edgar Peña Parra, the Substitute of the Secretariat of State at the Vatican, and Prince Rahim Aga Khan pictured in November 2022 at the Vatican. Photograph: Divisione Produzione Fotografica/Vatican Media, via AKDN.

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BRIEF NOTES ON THE PAPACY AND THE IMAMAT, AND SIMON PETER (St. Peter) IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC AND ISMAILI TRADITIONS

The Catholics adhere to the belief that the Pope is a successor of St. Peter. The succession of the Pope is determined by a college of cardinals who elect the Pope, while the office of the Imam of the Ismailis is a hereditary position. The Ismailis regard their 49th hereditary Imam as the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) through Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s.). In a speech made at the Canadian Parliament in 2014, the Aga Khan declared that “the Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet.” And, in an interview with Politique International he said, “The religious leadership of the Ismaili Imam goes back to the origins of Shia Islam when the Prophet Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali, to continue his teachings within the Muslim community. The leadership is hereditary, handed down by Ali’s descendants, and the Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living Imam, namely myself.”

In the Catholic tradition, the foundation for the office of the Pope is found primarily in Matthew, where Jesus is quoted as telling Simon Peter:

“You are ‘Rock,’ and on this rock I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

A painting of Simon Peter or Saint Peter by Marco Zoppo, depicting Peter holding the Keys of Heaven and a book representing the gospel, Barakah
A painting of Simon Peter or Saint Peter by Marco Zoppo, depicting Peter holding the Keys of Heaven and a book representing the gospel. Photograph: Wikipedia/Public Domain.

This series of successions of the Pope is known as “Apostolic Succession,” with the line of Bishops stretching back to the apostles, who lived during the time of Jesus. Simon Peter is recognized as having been the first Pope. Early Christians reserved the title of “Pope” for St. Peter’s successors.

However, in branches of Shia theology as well as Ismailism, Simon Peter’s role is seen as the direct parallel to that of Hazrat Ali as the first Imam. Ismailis along with some other Shia groups maintain that every major Prophet had a spiritual legatee (Waṣi) or successor called the Asas (foundation) who taught the inner meaning to those who had the capacity to understand it. In this regard, Adam had Seth; Noah had Shem; Moses had Aaron, and Jesus had Simon Peter. A well known sacred tradition of the Prophet Muhammad says that “Ali is to me as Aaron was to Moses,” confirming that Ali held the same level of authority as Aaron did.

Date posted: January 1, 2023.
Last updated: January 2, 2023 (typos.)

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REVIEW TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT BARAKAH’S SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 275 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat. Also visit our two sister websites, Simerg and Simergphotos.

References

  1. Apostolic Journey to France: Greeting by the Holy Father during the visit at the Institut de France (September 13, 2008)
  2. The Popes: From St. Peter to Pope Frances by Rupert Matthews,  2014 Edition published by arrangement with Moseley Road Inc.
  3. http://www.catholic-pages.com/pope/peter.asp
  4. Peter in Islam, at Wikipedia.
  5. Comparing the Imamat and the Papacy: Some Short Notes (at Ismailignosis.com).
  6. The Delegation Decoded – An Esoteric Exegesis of the Delegation of the Isma‘ili Imamat, by Khalil Andani.
  7. Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse.
  8. Voices: “The Power of Wisdom” – His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview with Politique Internationale (English translation)
  9. In a Dynamic and Stirring Address to Members of the Canadian Parliament, His Highness the Aga Khan Shares His Faith Perspectives on the Imamat, Collaboration with Canada, the Muslim World Community (the Ummah), the Nurturing of Civil Society, Early Childhood Education, Voluntary Work, and the Unity of the Human Race

Related readings:

Islam Is a Faith of Reason” – SPIEGEL Interview with Aga Khan in which His Highness the Aga Khan responded to Pope Benedict’s controversial remarks concerning Islam that he had made in 2006; and Special Series: Ismaili Expressions on the Imamat and Imam of the Time — (I) The Preamble of the Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims

2 comments

  1. Dear Malik
    Another beautiful and appropriate article on People of the Book. It is educational for all of us. Thanks

    Like

  2. Thanks for always giving us important news and articles of our Beloved Hazar Imam and Family. Keep it up as always and wishing you and your family a Very Happy New Year and continue giving us heartwarming news.

    Like

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