According to Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, there is no "clash of civilization" between the West and Islam

Source: FSSPX News


Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, the new nuncio in Egypt and delegate of the Holy See to the Arab League, declared shortly before leaving Rome for Cairo that interreligious dialogue cannot be reduced to a merely cultural relationship.

 The former president of the pontifical Council for Interreligiouus Dialogue, speaking during a conference given at the Pontifical Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies, in Rome, on March 29, 2006, affirmed: "There is a link between religion and culture, but I think that we cannot reduce the relationship between persons of various religions to a cultural relationship". "Several religions can co-exists inside the same cultural framework", underlined Bishop Fitzgerald, citing India as an  example,  affirming, however,  that it was not "a question of an intercultural, but of an interreligious co-existence". "Do converts to Islam change culture?", he asked, convinced that the answer was negative. He gave the example of Italian converts to Islam who do not for all that, renounce their culture.

On the basis of nearly 20 years  experience on the pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Bishop Fitzgerald explained that, if the topics for the dialogue were always culture, economics, politics, etc., "the departure point was always a religious vision". According to him, there is a "great possibility for an interreligious cooperation", but in his opinion, the purpose of "dialogue is not meant to change Islam, but to change ourselves." Furthermore, the prelate, who was about to leave for Egypt, felt that "a theological dialogue with Islam was not impossible, not for the purpose of reaching an agreement – which is unthinkable -, but in order to have a better mutual understanding". – So much for the missionary spirit!

 Bishop Fitzgerald also described as "simplistic" the concept of a "clash of civilizations" between the West and the Muslim world, because "we are in a multicultural and multireligious world." "Many people consider Islam as a monolithic bloc and, because of this, they are afraid". Even if "in its basic principles" it is unique, "Islam is multifaceted" and “in concrete terms it can be lived in many different ways". According to the Vatican diplomat, "dialogue between Christians and Muslims should take place individually with the Sunnites and the Shiites", even  if it does not exclude the existence of a certain Islamic "ecumenism". Touching upon the issue of Muslim fundamentalists, Bishop Fitzgerald stressed that, "in Christendom", there were also preachers who would speak without any respect for the culture" in which they lived. Thus, he declared himself in favor of an intra-religious dialogue" to resolve such questions.

Lastly, Bishop Fitzgerald defined the "three objectives" of interreligious dialogue: "to live together peacefully and with mutual respect", "to foster collaboration in serving the poorest among the poor" and "to help one another to better live up to what God wants of each one of us." As an antidote we will publish in Christendom an article by Fr. Patrice Laroche "The conversion of Muslims in the West". The article is being translated. We hope to have it ready for the May-June issue.

On March 11, 2006, Benedict XVI temporarily united the presidency of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to that of the Pontifical Council for Cultural Affairs. According to the official phrase, it was a matter of "fostering a more intense dialogue between men of various cultural backgrounds and representatives of the various religions". A few days earlier, the pope had removed Bishop Michael Fitzgerald from the presidency of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue by appointing him as apostolic nuncio to the Arab Republic of Egypt and delegate to the Organization of the Arab League.