A controversial comment made by Pope Francis on Wednesday that "God cannot be God without man" has sparked a fiery debate among theologians and other believers.
Speaking on the theme "God's paternity, wellspring of our hope," Pope Francis made the comments while trying to explain to a group of pilgrims and other faithful travelers that Scripture shows that it isn't in God's nature to leave man alone.
"Dear brothers and sisters, we are never alone. We may be distant, hostile, we may even profess ourselves to be 'without God'. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ shows us that God cannot stay without us," the pope said, according to a summary of his comments provided by the Holy See Press Office.
"He will never be a God 'without man'; it is He Who cannot stay without us, and this is a great mystery! God cannot be God without man: the great mystery is this!" he said.
He went on to explain that it is because of God's fatherly love for man that the faithful should have hope in God always.
"And this certainty is the wellspring of our hope, which we find conserved in all the invocations of Our Father. When we are in need of help, Jesus does not tell us to resign ourselves and close ourselves up, but instead to turn to the Father and to ask Him trustfully," said Francis.
"All our needs, from the most evident and everyday, such as food, health and work, up to those such as being forgiven and kept from temptation, are not the reflection of our solitude: there is instead a Father who always looks upon us with love, and Who certainly does not abandon us," he explained.
John Paul Meenan, professor of theology at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, a Catholic college in Eastern Ontario, told LifeSiteNews, however, that he is concerned with the statement that "God cannot be God without man."
He said it could be taken to support a modernist falsehood known as "process theology" which argues that "God perfects Himself by creation or grows with creation."
Another theologian who chose not to be identified in the report said: "Because of The Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, it is true that God remains eternally joined to mankind through the human nature of Jesus Christ, Second of the Three Divine Persons of The Most Blessed Trinity."
The theologian noted, however, that God has no "actual need" of man.
"God has absolutely no actual need of mankind, our relationship with God being entirely dependent on that gratuitous superabundance of the infinite Divine Love of The Father, Son and Holy Spirit," the theologian said.