The Pope’s New Clothes: A Message from Rev. Jerry Campbell, Tamar Frankiel, Ph.D.and Imam Jihad Turk

As Jorge Bergoglio begins his new life as Pope Francis, we join in celebration with the Roman Catholic Church in the election of the first Latin American, first Jesuit pontiff. With the selection of the name Francis (in reference to St. Francis of Assisi) it appears Bergoglio seeks to ring the bells of St. Peter’s for global inclusion, care for the marginalized and — we sincerely hope — inter-religious cooperation.

This week, Pope Francis has acquired a new set of clothes. In accepting the papacy, he now is shrouded in the protection of the church’s political vestments.

As representatives of an interreligious university, we trust that Pope Francis will wisely recognize the transparency of his new clothes and hew to the naked simplicity of his namesake’s example. We hope he will dialogue with all who are committed to honesty, open inquiry, social equality, economic justice and understanding between the religions.

Jorge Bergoglio’s past has not been perfect, nor his public record spotless, for, after all, he is human. But for the new man he has become as Pope Francis — for his outlook, for his stamina, for his health — we pray. We join together with millions around the world to ask God to bless him and give him wisdom as he leads the Catholic Church into the possibilities of a better future.

U.S. Muslim Group Offers ‘Best Wishes’ to Resigning Pope, Seeks Positive Relations with New Pontiff

In a statement reacting to Pope Benedict’s decision to step down at the end of this month, Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said:

“We offer the American Muslim community’s best wishes to Pope Benedict XVI as he leaves his position as head of the Roman Catholic Church.

“In recent years — and despite some passing controversies — relations between Muslims and Catholics have strengthened, particularly on issues related to social justice and family values.

“We look forward to continued and growing positive interfaith relations under the new pontiff as Muslims in the United States and worldwide join with people of all faiths and cultures who seek to make a better world.”

GroenLinks Leader Feels “Islam is a Problem”

Leftwing Green (GroenLinks) leader Femke Halsema expressed criticism of Islam in an interview with newspaper De Pers, stating that the religion is “of course a problem”. The statement was a response to the newspaper’s suggestion that the ‘progressive’ GroenLinks does not campaign against orthodox Islam. Halsema reacted dismissively to the claim, citing her provocative 2006 criticism of fundamental Muslims, fundamental American Christians and the Roman Catholic Church as an “axis of religious evil” for their oppression of women. Invited to criticize Islam without making a parallel attack on Catholicism, Halsema did not shy away. “I notice it in my district: of course Islam is a problem. Anyway, specifically Islam in combination with illiteracy. It is: having few of your own opinions about the good life. (…) Being fearful of our society and thereby becoming very susceptible to what the Imam thinks, who is often very conservative.”

History made as Muslims visit Holy Land

Muslims, Jews and Christians joined together for a ground-breaking multi-faith pilgrimage to Jerusalem’s Holy Land. The group of 26 formed the first ever visit to Israel and Palestine organised by a predominantly Muslim group from Britain. A total of 23 Muslims took part in the pilgrimage, and were joined by fellow members of the East London Three Faiths Forum. The trip was led by Imam Dr Mohammed Fahim of the South Woodford Community Centre, Mulberry Way, South Woodford, Rabbi David Hulbert of Bet Tikvah Synagogue, Perrymans Farm Road, Newbury Park, and Fr Francis Coveney of St Anne’s Line Roman Catholic Church, Grove Crescent, South Woodford. The six-day journey saw them take in the great religious sites of the Holy Land – including the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Western Wall. The group also visited Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity, spent a day in the Judaean desert, went swimming in the Dead Sea, visited Jesus’ home town of Nazareth, and even enjoyed a trip across the Sea of Galilee. Dr Fahim said he was proud to be the first British Imam to visit Israel, and was delighted to have joined with other faith groups for the emotional adventure.

Full-text article continues here. (Some news sites may require registration)

Four Steps to Christianize Muslims

An ordained minister from Ghana recently gave participants in a high-profile international meeting of evangelicals in the US a four-step recipe to convert Muslims, The Christian Today reported on Wednesday, August 20. “Show interest in knowing their beliefs, fears, and joys,” Dr John Azumah told the Inside-Out Evangelical Conference in California last week, describing the first step. Germany-based Evangelical Alliance distributed in last Ramadan calendars featuring special prayers for Muslims to be guided to Christianity. Last December, the Roman Catholic Church defended its “right and duty” to spread its message to non-Christians.

Spain’s Migrants Encounter Social Acceptance and Institutional Resistance

{This article explores Spain’s Islamic legacy and how this history impacts the experiences of the latest wave of Muslim immigrants. According to the author, the Catholicization of the country (beginning in the 13th Century) involved a concerted effort by the Church to expel or convert threatening elements from its midst, including Jews and Muslims. Though Spanish culture and society in some ways provide familiar and accomodating spaces for Muslim immigrants now, habits of institutional resistance to Muslims are still maintained by the Catholic Church.} Original Title: Spain’s migrants ‘seek jobs not conquest’ By Leslie Crawford in Madrid On the cobblestones outside the great 8th century mosque in C_rdoba, once the largest mosque in the western world, Mansur Escudero, a Spanish convert to Islam, unfolds his prayer mat and kneels down to pray. Muslims are not allowed to pray inside. The Roman Catholic Church, custodian of the building since the 13th century, says it would “confuse” Christians to see Muslims worshipping there. Mr Escudero has lobbied the Vatican to transform the C_rdoba mosque into an ecumenical place of worship, – “a symbol of religious tolerance and co-existence,” he says – but his campaign has not met with success…

Cardinal Risks Offending Turkey

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales risked a new clash with Muslims yesterday by questioning whether Turkey should be admitted to the European Union. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor echoed Pope Benedict XVI in saying that the predominantly Muslim state was not culturally part of Europe.

Catholics Should Not Marry Muslims

ITALIAN bishops gave warning yesterday against Catholics marrying Muslims, citing cultural differences and fears that children born to mixed marriages would shun Christianity. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the president of the Italian Bishops Conference, said: In addition to the problems that any couple encounters when forming a family, Catholics and Muslims have to reckon with the difficulties that inevitably arise from deep cultural differences. Cardinal Ruini, one of the right-hand men of Pope Benedict XVI, said that it was often the woman who married a Muslim man and it was she who converted to Islam. In a statement, the bishops said that if an Italian woman married a Muslim immigrant and then settled in his country of origin, her rights were not guaranteed in the way they are in Italy or in other Western nations. In addition the children of mixed marriages tended to be brought up as Muslims and not as Catholics. Such marriages should, therefore, be discouraged. Church officials said that there were 200,000 mixed marriages in Italy, with 20,000 this year alone, an increase of 10 per cent on the previous year. The statement enraged liberal groups, which accused the Roman Catholic Church of interfering in Italian affairs. Emma Bonino, a leader of the Transnational Radical Party, accused the Vatican of seeking to affect the general election, due in April, as politicians from the Right and Left courted the Vatican to gain Catholic votes. She said that the Vatican had taken strong stances on issues such as abortion, same-sex unions, and euthanasia in violation of the 1929 Lateran Treaty between the Vatican and the Italian State. Mara Tognetti Borgogna, a sociologist at Bicocca University, Milan, said of mixed marriages: Each case is different. It depends on the circumstances.The most critical moment usually comes when the children reach adolescence and come into conflict with one parent or both over their life choices. Signora Borgogna said that they could work, but you need a high level of mutual tolerance between two languages, two religions, two ways of looking at the world. On the other hand, the mixed marriages we have now are a kind of social laboratory, because that is the way our society is going.

New Book Calls Europe ‘Province Of Islam’?

By Alessandra Rizzo ROME – A new book by controversial journalist Oriana Fallaci that hit bookstores here Monday accuses Europe of having sold its soul to what she describes as an Islamic invasion. Entitled “The Strength of Reason,” (“La Forza della Ragione” in Italian), the book also accuses the Roman Catholic Church of being too weak before the Muslim world.