The Vatican and the Catholic world in general is taking a more critical attitude toward Islam, reflecting new concerns about Muslim immigration and fundamentalism, reports Commonweal magazine (Jan. 16).
The change in tone was evident in a recent article of the Vatican-approved Jesuit newspaper La Civilta Cattolica, which stressed Islam’s “warlike face” and its obsession with conquering Europe. The article blamed the growth of militant Islam for restricting religious freedom and anti-Christian violence. Although the article made few waves, its “striking departure from the Vatican’s usual stance [of interreligious dialogue] signals, if not a shift in official policy, then a minority voice that should be taken into account. If nothing else, it reflects the complex reaction to Muslim immigration in Italy and in the rest of Europe,” writes Benedicta Cipolla.
About the same time the article was published, Italy was embroiled in a controversy over the court ordered removal of crucifixes in public schools. A Muslim had filed suit against the schools for displaying the Catholic symbol, resulting in public protests as well as the pope indirectly condemning the legal action at a meeting with European interior ministers. While praising the “unity in diversity” that immigration contributes and calling the church to account for its own intolerance in the past, the pope added there should be legal recognition given to a country’s religious heritage.
Behind these developments is the growing concern of Catholic officials over the state of interreligous dialogue with Muslims. Bernardo Cervellera of the church-run AsiaNews adds that “In the years following Vatican II, dialogue, the new discovery, was emphasized, and there was hope of an…opening up of Islam. Instead, the phenomenon of fundamentalism and terrorism has become a problem that threatens religions, dialogue, and the international community.”
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