Pope Francis and Islam: three cornerstones of a magisterium

A common thread links Pope Francis’ keynote speeches given in Baku, Cairo and Ur, which indicate the need for an authentic religiosity to worship God and love our brothers and sisters, and a concrete commitment to justice and peace.

Pope Francis, right, meets with Iraq’s leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, Saturday, March 6, 2021. The closed-door meeting was expected to touch on issues plaguing Iraq’s Christian minority. Al-Sistani is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and and his opinions on religious matters are sought by Shiites worldwide. (AP Photo/Vatican Media)

By Andrea Tornielli

There is a common thread linking three important interventions of Pope Francis regarding interreligious dialogue, and Islam in particular.

It is a magisterium that indicates a road map with three fundamental points of reference: the role of religion in our societies, the criterion of authentic religiosity, and the concrete way to walk as brothers and sisters to build peace. We find them in the speeches that the Pope gave in Azerbaijan in 2016; in Egypt in 2017; and now during his historic trip to Iraq, in the unforgettable meeting in Ur of the Chaldeans, the city of Abraham.

The interlocutors of the first speech were the Azerbaijani Shiites, but also the other religious communities of the country. The second speech was mainly addressed to the Egyptian Sunni Muslims. Finally, the third was addressed to a wider interreligious audience made of a Muslim majority, yet including not only Christians but also representatives of the ancient Mesopotamian religions.

What Pope Francis is proposing and implementing is not an approach that forgets differences and identities in order to equalize all. Instead, it is a call to be faithful to one’s own religious identity in order to reject any instrumentalization of religion to foment hatred, division, terrorism, discrimination, and at the same time, to witness in increasingly secularized societies that we need God.

In Baku, before the Sheikh of the Muslims of the Caucasus and representatives of other religious communities in the country, Pope Francis recalled the “great task” of religions: that of “accompanying men and women looking for the meaning of life, helping them to understand that the limited capacities of the human being and the goods of this world must never become absolutes.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM VATICAN NEWS

Syria: Church perseveres in spite of war

cq5dam.thumbnail.cropped.750.422Archbishop Samir Nassar, of the Maronites (Syria) speaks on the presence of the Church in war-torn Syria.

By Benedict Mayaki

The archbishop of Damascus reiterates the important presence of the Catholic Church in a country where violence has claimed hundreds of thousands of human lives and has led to the forced migration of millions.

Syria has been at war for the past nine years. What began as protests against the regime of President Assad in 2011 degenerated into a war between the Syrian government and anti-government rebel groups.

Speaking to the Vatican Radio, Archbishop Samir Nassar, of Damascus of the Maronites in Syria, touched on pertinent issues such as justice, inter-religious dialogue between Christians and Muslims, migration, and the application of the social teachings of the Church in the context of Syria.

What’s the Church’s relationship with Islam?

Muslim-1

Scholar: Church urges Catholics to engage in dialogue, cooperation with Muslims on peace and social justice issues

Lonsdale priest Father Nick VanDenBroeke apologized Jan. 29 after remarks he had made in a homily about Muslim immigration and Islam being “the greatest threat in the world” sparked national controversy. “My homily on immigration contained words that were hurtful to Muslims. I’m sorry for this,” said VanDenBroeke, pastor of Immaculate Conception, in a statement. “I realize now that my comments were not fully reflective of the Catholic Church’s teaching on Islam.” In a separate statement, Archbishop Bernard Hebda noted he had spoken with Father VanDenBroeke Jan. 29 and reiterated that the Catholic Church holds Muslims in esteem, quoting Popes Benedict XVI and Francis.

To further explore the relationship between the Catholic Church and Islam, The Catholic Spirit interviewed Rita George-Tvrtkovic´, an associate professor of theology at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois. She specializes in medieval and contemporary Christian-Muslim relations. Her books include “A Christian Pilgrim in Medieval Iraq: Riccoldo da Montecroce’s Encounter with Islam” (Brepols, 2012); “Christians, Muslims and Mary: A History” (Paulist Press, 2018); and a co-edited volume, “Nicholas of Cusa and Islam: Polemic and Dialogue in the Late Middle Ages” (Brill, 2014). She earned her PhD at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, and is the former associate director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

George-Tvrtkovic´ will be speaking at the University of St. Thomas Feb. 18 on “What Muslims Can Teach Catholics about Christianity.” The Catholic Spirit received her responses via email. They are edited for length and clarity.

Q. What does the Church teach in general about Islam?

A. The basis for all Catholic relationships with Muslims today is the Second Vatican Council document “Nostra Aetate” (“On the Church’s Relation to Non-Christian Religions,” 1965). The document’s introduction says that “the Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in (other) religions” and encourages interreligious dialogue in general, but it also has two sections devoted to Judaism and Islam in particular.

Section 3 on Islam says that the Church regards Muslims “with esteem” and outlines areas of theological agreement (that God is creator, merciful, powerful, revealer; that Christians and Muslims believe in judgment and resurrection of the body; that they have similar practices such as prayer, fasting and almsgiving; and that they revere some of the same figures, such as Mary).

Areas of disagreement are also mentioned, the most prominent being how Christians and Muslims understand Jesus (Christians believe he is the Son of God, while Muslims consider him a prophet). Section 3 ends with a plea to engage in dialogue and cooperation with Muslims on peace and social justice issues. Since Christians and Muslims are the largest and second largest religions in the world, respectively, it seems especially urgent for our planet that Christians answer this call to collaborate for the common good.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

Religious fundamentalism is a ‘plague,’ pope says

20191118T1114-31850-CNS-POPE-INTERRELIGIOUS-ARGENTINA_800-690x450ROME – Interreligious dialogue is an important way to counter fundamentalist groups as well as the unjust accusation that religions sow division, Pope Francis said.

Meeting with members of the Argentine Institute for Interreligious Dialogue Nov. 18, the pope said that in “today’s precarious world, dialogue among religions is not a weakness. It finds its reason for being in the dialogue of God with humanity.”

Recalling a scene from the 11th-century poem, “The Song of Roland,” in which Christians threatened Muslims “to choose between baptism or death,” the pope denounced the fundamentalist mentality which “we cannot accept nor understand and cannot function anymore.”

According to its website, the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue was founded in Buenos Aires in 2002 and was inspired by then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as a way “to promote understanding among men and women of different religious traditions in our city and the world.”

The pope welcomed the members of the institute who are in Rome to reflect on the document on “human fraternity” and improving Christian-Muslim relations, which was signed Feb. 4 by Francis and Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar and a leading religious authority for many Sunni Muslims.

“This is key: Identity cannot be negotiated because if you negotiate your identity, there is no dialogue, there is submission. Each (religion) with its own identity is on the path of dialogue,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUXNOW

Pope seeks more freedom in theology, dialogue with Islam

190417_aptn_pope_thunberg_hpMain_16x9_1600Pope Francis called Friday for a reform of the way theology is taught in Catholic schools, saying students must learn about dialogue with Judaism and Islam, and that overall there must be greater freedom in theological research and academic pursuits.

The Jesuit pope made the call during a speech at the Jesuit-run theology university in Naples. It follows his outreach this year to the Muslim world with the signing of a joint statement with the imam of Cairo’s Al Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning, establishing the relationship between Catholics and Muslims as brothers, with a common mission to promote peace.

In his speech, Francis said dialogue and partnership with the Muslim world is necessary “to build a peaceful existence, even when there are the troublesome episodes by fanatic enemies of dialogue.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM ABC NEWS

Notre Dame and Al-Aqsa Fires Give Christians and Muslims a Chance to Work Together to Repair Their Sacred Spaces |

gettyimages-975008304The world watched as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned, due to a disastrous inferno that nearly crippled the 850-year-old church. Nearly 3,000 miles away, the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem also dealt with an apparently accidental fire of its own.

The al-Aqsa fire received much less attention in the news, but the burning of this 984-year-old mosque draws our attention to two of the important sites in Christendom and the Islamic world. While the fires are indeed unfortunate, they provide an opportunity for Christians and Muslims to reflect upon their common humanity and assist each other in the repairing of sacred spaces.

Outside of Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, Notre Dame Cathedral is considered one of the holiest places in Christendom. For Muslims, al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam behind al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina.

Thankfully, two of the Catholic holy relics in Notre Dame—the Crown of Thorns and the Fragment of the Cross—survived the devastating blaze. No news outlets have reported any damage to al-Aqsa, which was built on the Temple Mount, known as Haram esh-Sharif to Muslims.

The significance of the two fires pushes us beyond the mere structure of the buildings. Notre Dame and al-Aqsa symbolize the challenges and hopes for Christians and Muslims in their respective histories. For centuries, Notre Dame was the epicenter of Christianity on the European continent. Al-Aqsa is the place where Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad was transported during his Night Journey. For Muslims, al-Aqsa is not the most impressive mosque in the world, but it represents the permanent symbol of the Islamic faith in the holy land.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NEWSWEEK 

Interfaith dialogue really is relational, accessible

web RNS-Muslim women Washington stateThere is a particular urgency for Catholics to become participants in dialogue with Muslims

FINDING JESUS AMONG MUSLIMS: HOW LOVING ISLAM MAKES ME A BETTER CATHOLIC
By Jordan Denari Duffner
162 pages; Published by Liturgical Press41fbo3Fz79L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
$19.95

Earlier this year while on a train in Europe, I sat down across from an Arabic-looking man who began reading the Quran. My immediate first reaction was apprehension and fear. My immediate second reaction was to check my implicit yet real bias for what it was, Islamophobia.

Most striking to me was this incident happened just a few days after I had finished a book on Muslim-Christian relations that addressed these implicit biases to which Catholics like myself are prone. It is precisely because these biases are so ingrained and because Islamophobia is on the rise that Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic by Jordan Denari Duffner is such an important and timely resource.

 

Written primarily for a Catholic audience, the book explores present relations between Christianity and Islam. It does so, however, through the lens of Duffner’s lived experiences with Muslims and the ways in which encountering Islam has helped her find Jesus anew. She never intends the book to be a comprehensive analysis or work of systematic theology. Rather, in her words, Finding Jesus Among Muslims should act as a “facilitator of dialogue.” The book raises more questions than it answers, encouraging readers to go forth and learn more. The author’s rich commitment to Muslims and demonstrated courage in entering vulnerable, liminal spaces inspire readers to become active participants in dialogue.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER 

Pope Francis visits Morocco to highlight Christian-Muslim ties

MOROCCO-VATICAN-POPE-RELIGIONRabat, Morocco — Pope Francis landed in Morocco Saturday for a trip aimed at highlighting the North African nation’s Christian-Muslim ties, while also showing solidarity with migrants at Europe’s door and tending to a tiny Catholic flock.

“Dear Moroccan friends, I am coming as a pilgrim of peace and fraternity,” Francis wrote Friday on Twitter. “We Christians and Muslims believe in God, the Creator and the Merciful, who created people to live like brothers and sisters, respecting each other in their diversity, and helping one another in their needs.”

The highlight of the trip is likely to be Francis’ visit Saturday to the Mohammed VI Institute, a school of learning for imams that epitomizes Morocco’s efforts to promote a moderate brand of Islam and export it via preachers to Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Francis will also visit a migrant center run by the Caritas charity organization and will wrap up his trip Sunday with a Mass and a meeting with Moroccan clergy.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CBS NEWS 

Pope’s visit to Morocco shows ‘Christians and Muslims are not enemies’

43b6c558c31947dcdf04ef46ce5a3693-690x450Pope Francis, hand in hand with two children, leaves the Basilica of Our Lady of Loreto where, during a one-day visit, he celebrated Mass and prayed in the shrine containing a small house traditionally venerated as the house of Mary, and believed to have been miraculously transplanted from the Holy Land inside the Basilica, in central Italy, Monday, March 25, 2019. The pope chose Loreto to sign the Post-Synodal Exhortation of last October’s Synod of Bishops. (Credit: AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis.)

ROME – Even though Abdellah Redouane has spent the past 20 years of his life as the director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Italy, the Morocco-born man can’t disguise his hope for the upcoming March 30-31 papal visit to his homeland.

“This is not just a regular visit,” Redouane told Crux on Tuesday. “I believe it’s particularly important because 99 percent of the population in Morocco is Muslim. Inviting the pope, who is the leader of the Catholic religion, is something important, and we must thank those who worked to organize this visit.”

He believes that the papal visit can help build bridges between Muslims and Christians in Morocco, a country where, he acknowledged that despite the legal protection for religious freedom, there are instances of religious-based violence.

Francis’s visit, he said, can help “by reminding us Christians and Muslims are not enemies, but people who can work together, showing the followers of the two religions that if the leaders meet, they embrace, why cannot we too do the same?”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUXNOW.COM

 

A Praying Body of Christians, Muslims Overcomes Tragedy in Morocco

By Carolina McCabe

Monastery-Catholic-church-Notre-Dame-AtlasRabat – Behind massive walls in Midelt, central Morocco, lies the small Catholic community of Notre Dame de L’Atlas. The walls enclose a large courtyard, a small chapel, and a memorial for the seven brothers of Tibhirine who were killed in Algeria.

The community, belonging to the Cistercian order, was originally from the Atlas Abbey of Tibhirine near Medea, Algeria. During the Algerian Civil War, seven monks from the order were kidnapped, held for two months, and found decapitated in May of 1996. The Algerian government announced later that month that the heads of the clergymen had been discovered.

Two monks, Father Jean-Pierre and Father Amedee, managed to escape the kidnapping and survived the deadly attack.

In 2010, a film about the tragedy, “Des Hommes et des Dieux” (Of Gods and Men), won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.

The two surviving monks left Algeria and traveled to the current Notre Dame de l’Atlas monastery in Midelt, Morocco. The new order, which began in 2001, was formed by a community of monks who joined the two survivors of Tibhirine. Inside the compound, the monks work, pray, live, and welcome visitors. Father Amedee died in 2008, and Father Jean Pierre Schumacher is the only living survivor of the 1996 tragedy.

Read also: Rabat’s Cathedral: From a French Past to a Sub-Saharan Future

Living within the monastery are six brothers from France, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal. The brothers follow the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, also called Trappists, a Roman Catholic contemplative order dedicated to prayer.

Brother Anthony McNamara, a monk from Ireland, came to the monastery after recognizing the increasing anti-Muslim sentiment in the aftermath of ISIS killings. McNamara became invested in the Syrian crisis and learned about the devastation that Muslim people experience attributed to ISIS.

It was after McNamara saw powerful images and news stories about victims in Syria that he came to the realization that the violence was affecting everyone. “This brought home to me how we are all, Christian and Muslim, caught up in this terrible violence,” said McNamara. “We all believe in the same God, and here are these terrible murders being carried out in His name.”

As he celebrated midnight mass on Christmas Eve of 2015, McNamara decided to go to Notre Dame de L’Atlas to become a member of what he calls “a praying community amongst a praying community.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM MOROCCO WORLD NEWS