Introduction to the Study on Religion in Italy by Massimo Introvigne and PierLuigi Zoccatelli

How many Catholic priests, bishops or religious people are there in Italy? What associations aspire to represent Italian Muslims? Which associations address national masses of the many Protestant communities and individual Pentecostal Churches? What websites, email accounts, phone numbers correspond to the different Buddhist organizations, Hindu and Sikh communities in Italy? How many Italians are satanists? Which groups practice occultism, spiritualism, ceremonial magic? Which religions bring together flying saucers and Marxism? What is the Association for the Sbattezzo?

This is the work of the monitoring research agency CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions), which since 1988, has been working to understand Italian religions – and non-religious spiritual paths. Well covered here in the the Encyclopedia of Religion in Italy by Massimo Introvigne and Pier Luigi Zoccatelli. The authors present historical introductions, finally reliable statistical data, addresses, phone numbers, Internet links and doctrinal analysis of more than eight hundred organized spiritual and religious minorities in Italy – many of which, little known or discrete, shines a new light on pluralism in Italy. This work greatly changes the perception of religious pluralism in Italy.

The Undivided Past: history beyond our differences, By David Cannadine

David Cannadine, a leading historian makes a spirited case for harmony against the myths of identity politics according to the writer of this book review published in The Independent. the historian Sir David Cannadine seeks an understanding of the past that finds its focus in our age-old conversations and collaborations, rather than in conflict. Emperor Akbar, who pursued his vision of a common humanity just as much of Europe tore itself to shreds in fanatical wars of religion, has a brief cameo in this account by the author. Some 25 miles to the West of the Taj Mahal lies the rose-red hill-top ghost town of Fatehpur Sikri, the royal capital custom-built by the Emperor Akbar, occupied for 14 short years in the late 16th century and then, mysteriously, abandoned. Here, Akbar pursued his dreams of eclectic learning and enlightenment, and here he summoned scholars and clerics from all faiths – his own Islam, but also Hindu gurus, Catholic priests, Zoroastrians, Jains, Jews and Buddhists – to determine via debate not what divided them but what they shared. Cannadine offers a spirited, if relentless, challenge to the “us and them” mentality and the “allegedly impermeable divides” it finds between people of different communities and backgrounds. He takes his cue from the strident “clash of civilisations” rhetoric of the post-9/11 years, and extends his critique of “binary divisions” to cover oppositions and antipathies rooted in ideas of faith, nation, race, class, gender, and in “civilisation” itself. He argues against the notion that the key to history is some “all-pervasive polarity”, be it Christians vs Muslims, bourgeois vs proletarians, men vs women, the West vs the Rest. None will open history’s lock and reveal its innermost secrets, rather it is in and through unity and our similarities that the mysteries will be revealed.

Catholics and Muslims dialogue in a Lyon suburb

New dialogue between Catholics and Muslims has begun in some suburbs outside of Lyon. Several Catholic priests expressed enthusiasm about these encounters as most suburbanites are Muslim; approximately 2 percent of the population goes to church regularly. The gatherings attempt to make theological and practical commonalities evident.

Valencian Muslims Request Salaries for Imams

Representatives of Valencia’s Islamic Cultural Centre have suggested that imams across Spain be paid a wage, in the manner of Catholic priests. Amparo Sanchez Rossell, head of the Centre, advocates awarding salary based on university qualification in training related to Islamic studies. According to Rossell, instituting a salary “would help prevent extremists becoming involved in the mosque”.

Sessions Regularly Held by the Bishops’ Conference

Catholic priests are getting educated about Islam, _in order to be able to distinguish between rumors and realities’. In my neighborhood, the church is empty and the mosque is packed; that’s a reality that compels me to learn about Islam. Candidness is not at odds with caution, and this priest making this statement asked to remain anonymous. Contacts between the catholic world and Islam might be frequent, they are still heavily biased by fear, clich_s, and lack of mutual knowledge.

Catholic priests attend training on Islam

In our neighborhood, the churches are empty but the mosques are full,” a priest participating in an training session in Orsay admitted. Organized by the Office for Islamic Relations in the French Bishops Conference, this training session allowed this priest a week to explore the historical, spiritual, social, cultural and religious aspects of Islam. At both the grassroots and institutional levels, contacts between Islam and Catholicism are frequent but remain formal and tagged with fears and clich_s.