ROME (RNS) An Italian bishop has clashed with a pair of priests who want to invite Muslims to pray inside their churches in a bid to promote tolerance in a diocese in Tuscany.
“The deserved, necessary and respectful welcome of people who practice other faiths and religions does not mean offering them space for prayers inside churches designed for liturgy and the gathering of Christian communities,” Bishop Fausto Tardelli of Pistoia said in a statement reported on Saturday (March 19).
“They can very well find other spaces and places,” Tardelli said.
The bishop was responding to pledges by two local priests, the Rev. Massimo Biancalani and the Rev. Alessandro Carmignani, to welcome 18 Muslim refugees by giving them space to pray inside their churches.
But the two priests told Italian media they intend to defy the bishop and host the refugees in three parishes in the diocese, which is 25 miles northwest of Florence.
“What is the problem?” said Biancalani who runs the parish of Vicofaro. “If we want to give them a proper welcome and integration it makes no sense to make them pray in a cellar.
“Whoever wants to can pray inside the church, whoever does not want to can do it in another space. They don’t need much; the important thing is that they can face Mecca.”
The two priests contend they are responding to appeals by Pope Francis to help immigrants seeking support and they think praying together is a good way to enable their congregations to get to know the immigrants.
Now, Father Alexander Lucie-Smith, a doctor of moral theology and a consulting editor of The Catholic Herald, has already addressed why it is inappropriate for a Catholic Church or other Christian Church to be used for Muslim "prayer space." Fr. Lucie notes:
"A row has broken out in the Church of England’s diocese of Southwark occasioned by a vicar giving permission for some Muslims to hold their prayer service in his church. Some Catholics might feel a bit smug about this, but they ought not to, as the vicar in question’s attitude to Muslim worship is rather similar to that of several Catholic priests I could name (but won’t).
Needless to say I am firmly on the side of our evangelical brethren on this one. No Christian church, if it wants to remain a Christian church, and no other church property, even a church hall, should ever be used for Muslim worship. The reason is a straightforward one: once a place has been used for Muslim worship it is ipso facto a mosque – or so some Muslims tell us. So it is clearly not a good idea to let your church be converted into a mosque, because once it is a mosque, it cannot be converted back, or so it is claimed.
This story – Muslim prayers in Christian buildings – is a remarkably common one, and it keeps on popping up again and again in the media. It is a running saga in Spain, where, it seems, a group of Muslims are keen to reclaim their perceived rights over Cordoba Cathedral.
Most of us have heard of the theology of replacement, or supercessionism, which are terms usually used with reference to the Jews and the promises of the Old Testament. Catholics do not hold to such a theology, and we do not see the Covenant with the Jews as having been cancelled. But Islam has a theology of replacement, as far as I can see: for them it is natural that all churches, like the Haghia Sophia, should become mosques, as they regard Mohamed as the “seal” of the prophets. Therefore church into mosque is a sort of natural progression (the other way around would be regression.) Moreover, in a belief that strikes one as having it both ways, they see the natural state of mankind in the beginning as Islamic: they regard Adam as the first prophet, and see his life in the Garden of Eden as an Islamic one. So if a Christian becomes a Muslim they are at once progressing and at the same time reverting to the original state of humanity.
If a Muslim points out that I am wrong on this matter, I would be glad to take correction from him or her.
The vicar who hosted the Muslim prayers in his church and who took part in them, is reported as saying the following: “It is the same God, we share a tradition.” This is perhaps the most worrying thing of all, and it is something that I have heard on the lips of Catholics too. It is simply not true, and to suggest that it is misleading, to say the least. Islam’s concept of God and of revelation is radically different to the Catholic concept of either. Moreover, our tradition and their tradition, our culture and theirs, are radically (that is to say from the root up) different. In art, in literature, in law, in cookery, in domestic life, their path is markedly different from our own. The vicar’s words do no one any favours. Moreover, the vicar seems to have forgotten the central mystery of the Christain faith, the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, a mystery that penetrates all aspects of faith and life, or should.
Christians who take this, or a similar view, on the closeness of Islamic and Christian traditions, know nothing about Islam, but, shockingly, seem to know nothing about their own Christian tradition either.
There are forces in this country and around the world which want to combine
Christianity and Islam into a global religion which would be called "Chrislam." See here.
Still others seek to blend many different religions into a syncretistic
one-world religion with truth being sacrificed in the name of a false
Those who have the courage to warn others about the dangers
inherent within Islam can expect to be ostracized and increasingly relegated to
the margins of society.