A Roman instruction on the relations between Christians and Muslims

Source: FSSPX News


In an instruction published on May 14, entitled Erga migrantes caritas Christi (The love of Christ towards migrants), the Council sought to clarify the relations between Christians and Muslims, underlining “the importance of the principle of reciprocity” as regards their rights and their duties. “It is to be understood not as an attitude of demand, but as a relationship based on mutual respect and justice in legal and religious matters”. The Council has especially in mind “the many Christian migrants in lands where the majority of the population is not Christian and where the right to religious freedom is severely restricted or repressed.”

The document affirms that despite the convergences between Islam and Christianity, “there are, however, also divergences, some of which have to do with legitimate acquisitions of modern life and thought.” “Worried in particular about human rights, we hope that there will be, on the part of our Muslim brothers and sisters, a growing awareness that fundamental liberties, the inviolable rights of the person, the equal dignity of man and woman, the democratic principle of government and the healthy lay character of the State, are principles that cannot be surrendered.” It would be appropriate here to remind the Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants that the greatest divergence between Catholicism and Islam is the fierce opposition of the latter to the dogma of the Holy Trinity, well before the “acquisitions of modern life and thought”.

Concerning marriage between a Catholic and a Muslim and in view of “bitter experience”, the Council advocates “a particularly careful and in-depth preparation” which “will help the two fiancés to know and consciously ‘assume’ the profound cultural and religious differences they will have to face, both between themselves, and in relation to their respective families and the Muslim’s original environment, to which they may possibly return after a period spent abroad.” “If the marriage is registered with a consulate of the Islamic country of origin, the Catholic party must beware of reciting or signing documents containing the shahada (profession of the Muslim belief).”

The Council recalls that in the framework of inter-religious dialogue, the proclamation “of salvation in Christ” must never be renounced (by the Catholics), while prudently specifying that this proclamation may be “explicit or implicit” only.

The Council also examines the situation of the countries which receive immigrants, describing the “precarious situation of so many foreigners, which should arouse everyone’s solidarity,” and which “instead brings about fear in many people, who feel that immigrants are a burden, regard them with suspicion and even consider them a danger and a threat. This often provokes manifestations of intolerance, xenophobia and racism.” In matters of emigration, “purely restrictive policies” are to be considered “ineffective”, liable to provoke “negative” effects and “risk increasing illegal entries and even favoring the activities of criminal organizations”.

On May 18, seeming to echo this instruction, Pope John Paul II recommended to the members of the plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, dialogue as the solution to the difficulties of integration. Acknowledging that “the integration of populations belonging to different cultures and religions is never immune, either from unknown factors or difficulties”, notably the immigration of Muslims, “who pose specific problems”, the Holy Father recalled the necessity of a “fraternal and reciprocal dialogue” between all people.

The pope underlined that “love and welcome constitute the most effective form of evangelization”, insisting on the role of Christians in the new evangelization. According to him, spiritual and cultural formation must adapt itself to the changes brought about by globalization, notably in helping the faithful to overcome all forms of prejudice. Local Churches must also organize initiatives in favor of meetings and exchanges.

“The ever increasing number of Christian immigrants who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church offers to particular churches new possibilities for fraternity and ecumenical dialogue,” continued John Paul II, hoping that “the migratory phenomenon and the ecumenical movement would become an incentive for a mankind more in harmony” with itself.

“Integration on the social level and interaction on the cultural level, have become a necessary premise for a veritable peaceful co-existence between people and nations,” added the Holy Father, because “the phenomenon of mass immigration has given rise to the ethnic, cultural and religious pluralism, which characterizes nations today.”