How ecumenical?

The Vatican on Islam


In November 2003, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, wrote a letter to the worldwide Muslim community. The occasion was Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic celebration that marks the end of Ramadan. The letter sounded much like others written since 1967, when the first one was sent: cordial holiday greetings mixed with a call to Christians and Muslims to work together toward peace. Essential to peace, Archbishop Fitzgerald wrote, is forgiveness, “for it opens up the possibility of beginning again, on a new basis, in a restored relationship.” One month earlier, La Civiltà Cattolica, a Rome-based Jesuit paper whose contents are approved by the Vatican, published an article on Islam markedly different in tone. Criticizing predominantly Muslim countries for their treatment of Christians, Giuseppe De Rosa, SJ, wrote of Islam’s “warlike face” and obsession with conquering Europe. He blamed the dwindling numbers of Christians in Muslim countries on their inferior status under Islamic law, and accused radical Islamists in Algeria, Sudan, and Nigeria of countenancing anti-Christian violence. He argued for greater religious liberty in Islamic countries, noting that while Christians were not allowed to worship freely in Saudi Arabia, the Italian government had donated the land for Europe’s largest mosque, constructed with Saudi funds “in the heart of Christianity.” The Civiltà...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Benedicta Cipolla, a former correspondent for Catholic News Service in Rome, is a freelance writer in New York.