Italy: In favor of the inculturation of Islam, by the bishops of Europe

Source: FSSPX News

Bishop Maroun Lahham, Archbishop of Tunis.

The second meeting of delegates from the Bishops Conferences in Europe for relations with Muslims in Europe took place in Turin (Italy) from May 31 to June 2, 2011.  The Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (known by its French initials CCEE) brings together the presidents of the 33 European bishops’ conferences.  Presiding over this meeting was Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux and vice-president of the CCEE.  Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, was also present.

On June 1, Archbishop Maroun Lahham, Archbishop of Tunis, spoke, emphasizing that the number of initiatives from the Muslim side in the Islamic-Christian dialogue is clearly increasing.  “In this there is an overcoming of a psychology of fear or doubt with regard to a topic,” he remarked somewhat optimistically.  Archbishop Lahham does not forget that there are violent demonstrations when an Islamic personage or dogma is called into question (caricatures of Muhammad, the pope’s lecture in Regensburg….), while noting that this sort of violent action is becoming less frequent.  But he declared:  “the family, the school and the mosque do not educate people in a basic view of equality between Arab Christian and Arab Muslim.”  Later in his talk he added, “We must not forget that Islam presents itself as a unique, all-encompassing system in which everything is related (faith, worship, family, children, morality, prophet, economic life, inheritance, etc.).  Therefore it is enough to touch just one point in this larger system, and Islam per se feels that is it threatened or offended.”  In the same way, the notion of religious freedom has quite different meanings for Christians and Muslims.  According to Abp. Lahham, “In Muslim countries (with rare exceptions), the Christian minorities have freedom of worship, in other words, the freedom to practice their faith, in private and in public.  Now the Christian concept of religious freedom, especially after Vatican II, means freedom of conscience, in other words, the freedom to choose one’s religion or to choose not to have any religion.”

After this second meeting, the delegates of the Bishops' Conference published a newsletter online on the CCEE's website.  The bishops confirm that the Catholic Church is following with much interest the “progressive enculturation of Islam in Europe, with a tendency to manifest more its religious and moral than its political dimension.”  And that “in order to provide their religious leaders – imams or teachers – with a theological and cultural formation that will allow them suitably to play their religious role in the European context.”  In the perspective of the creation of a chair of Islamic theology in the State universities, the Church – they go on to say – is in favor of confessional teaching of religion in public schools being made available to other religious traditions, including Islam.

The bishops candidly declare that they “share with sympathy in the expressions of a desire for democracy, freedom,  and of a call for respect of persons, of which the youth from different Arab countries have made themselves the promoters during these months of great political changes, and they express a wish that the process underway may lead to the establishment of a true freedom of religion in these countries, so that Arabian Christians may also enjoy this freedom in the context of an egalitarian citizenship.” – Which only goes to show that, far from what Archbishop Lahham claims, freedom of religion is not guaranteed to the Christian minorities in these countries.

These delegates next claim to have made “a critical evaluation of the term 'islamophobia' used to describe the reactions of hostility towards Islam”, and to prefer the terms 'fear' and 'hostility'.  They also “exhort Muslims to form positive and transparent relations” order to dissipate a hostile attitude towards them.  To conclude, the bishops repeated “their conviction that the Catholic Church will pursue the dialogue with the Muslims with renewed commitment, in the footsteps of Vatican Council II and following the teaching of Benedict XVI”, in which Christians and Muslims are finally called to express their faith sincerely without imposing it. – No comment.

One goal among others of the Counsel of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe (CCEE), is to assure the exercise of collegiality in the hierarchical communion cum et sub romano pontifice; the promotion of the new evangelization on the European level; the support for the ecumenical collaboration in Europe, and to reestablish the unity of Christians.  These meetings generally take place every three years, and examine the principal questions related to evangelization and the enculturation of the Gospel in the European context. (sources: ccee/apic – DICI#236, June 11, 2011)

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