Pope Francis invites French Muslim leaders to meet at Vatican

Pope Francis will receive a delegation from the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) in the Vatican on November 3.

The five members representing the CFCM include President Anwar Kbibech, the three Vice-Presidents and the Secretary General of the organization, Abdallah Zekri. They will meet with the Pope in a private audience after meeting with the prelate in charge of relations with Islam, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

“I am very happy to meet the Pope because he is a man of dialogue and a man of peace,” Adballah Zekri said.

This meeting was reportedly organized on behalf of the Vatican by the French cardinals to strengthen interreligious dialogue between the two faiths, especially in the aftermath of a number of terror attacks. The French cardinals told the CFCM that the Pope had particularly appreciated the institution’s firm positions following the murder of Father Jacques Hamel on July 26 in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray by two terrorists belonging to the Islamic State.

The CFCM delegation will travel to Rome on November 2 for a reception at France’s embassy in Rome. On November 3, they will meet with the Vatican Cardinal in charge of relations with Islam, followed by the private audience with Pope Francis.

France has been particularly hard hit by attacks from Islamic terrorists. Besides the execution of Father Hamel, militants of the Islamic State have carried out two major attacks in Paris, as well as the slaughter of 84 civilians in the south of France as they celebrated Bastille Day.

 

At the Great Mosque of Paris, future imams “unload their baggage”

The Grand Mosque of Paris
The Grand Mosque of Paris

“The best thing I heard this week, it’s what the Pope said. The press can’t say anything it wants, there are things we can’t talk about.” Students at the Institute of Theology at the Great Mosque of Paris cited Pope Francois when discussing the recent attacks at Charlie Hebdo. While flying to the Philippines the Pope said, “one shouldn’t provoke or insult the faith of others, or make a game of it.”

Every Saturday and Sunday at the Institute from 9 am to 7 pm adults take classes in order to become imams, or, for only two years in order to become a chaplain. Courses were suspended on January 10 and 11 due to recent “events” and restarted January 17.

Missoum Chaoui, a tutor and prison chaplain in Ile-de-France decided to facilitate discussion among his students, the “future leaders” of Islam. Men sit in one corner, women in the other. “Go ahead, unload your baggage,” encourages Chaoui in front of his first-year class.

The discussion is a reminder that Muslims “don’t have to excuse these crimes,” because the terrorists aren’t one of them. Or to clarify that “the Muslim community, it mourns these men but not the freedom of expression.” Another said, “It’s been said that there weren’t many Muslims who participated in the demonstration. They forget that ‘Muslim,’ isn’t written on our foreheads.” Some preferred to write “anger” on social media rather than “Je suis Charlie.” “Open your Facebook page, go on the Internet,” recommends Chaoui, “They took out their poison pens, take out pens of peace to show who the Prophet really was.”

Some expressed their frustration with “double standards,” such as the fact that “anti-Semitism is prohibited,” while Islamophobia is not. “It will come. We just have to work for it,” assured their teacher. “There will always be those who speak badly of the Prophet. He has already been called a sorcerer, a liar and he always pardoned them.”

“Caricatures, it’s just the beginning,” says one student. Examining the cartoons published in Charlie Hebdo he says, “The turban isn’t holy, it speaks volumes. For those who look hard, we see male genitalia, on the turban. And on the face…it’s like a woman’s private parts. It’s going around Facebook.” Chaoui interrupts and reframes: “Attention to what is open to interpretation.” Another older man doesn’t believe the media’s version. “The scenario, it was constructed in advance,” by others, he says. “It’s not what’s said, we didn’t see their faces,” he grumbles four or five times. “They’re at the forensic institute,” retorts the professor, “Then who is it?” he asks. No response. Another woman responds, “This newspaper was on the brink of bankruptcy, there are a lot of Muslims in France, we provoke an event…Now they have a lot of money.” Certain people nod their head, others don’t, but the whole room falls silent, even the professor. Two or three questions later the class is over.

Christians, Muslims pray together

Muslims and Christians together pray in St. Peter’s Square, each with the words of their own religion. For many it is a “miracle” born by the appeal of Pope Francis who encouraged fasting for peace against the war in Syria. In St. Peter’s square, in the late afternoon, a hundred thousand people came to accept the appeal of the pope. A silent ceremony, with flags ranging from the Syrian flag to those of the color of the rainbow of peace and the Chinese flag to Argentinian flag, the country of the Pope.

An atmosphere of silence, made almost surreal by the presence of Syrians and Muslims in the square: several hundred according to the Arab Community in Italy. Some of them recited the Qur’an: while at the same time came Ave Maria rising from the square. A fusion of faiths and prayers in the name of peace. The verse recited says that Allah has set up a people and a community so that we can know each other – explains Salameh Ashour a Palestinian – The noblest man who loves and fears God refrains from any violence.” Egyptians, Libyans, Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis and other Arabs mixed on the streets with African, South American and Italian.

For many it was a moment of peace. “Today we have fasted” says Ismael, wrapped in a flag of Syria “we are here because Francis has shown an understanding for our people.” “Unprecedented” for many Catholics “the sort of miracle of Pope Francis.”

Minas, a Syrian wearing the chador and honeymooning in Rome went to St. Peter with her husband for the event: “I just hope” he says “that when we return we will not find Damascus destroyed by bombs.”

 

Muslims of Cagliari Stand Together through Fasting and Prayers against War, After a Call made by Pope Francis

From Cagliari, an appeal for peace: The Muslim community of the Sardinian capital reacts to the appeal of the Pope. September 7th will be a day of fasting and prayer against war in the Middle East. This was announced by the spokesman of the Muslim community of Cagliari, Sulaiman Hijazi, and the president of the Province of Cagliari, Angela Quaquero.

“In Cagliari, after the appeal that Pope Francis addressed to all people of good will against war in the Middle East, the Muslim Community of Cagliari decided to join with a day of fasting to be held on September 7” says Sulaiman Hijazi. This is a concrete step showing intercultural goodwill.

 

Muslims Respond to the Pope’s Letter for Best Wishes during the end of Ramadan

August 8, 2013

 

With “extraordinary pleasure” Muslims of Italy accepted the goodwill message sent by Pope Francis which acknowledged the end of Ramadan and in particular, best wishes for the feast of Eid al-Fitr. The Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy (Ucoii) wrote today in a letter to the Pope; the organization wanted to emphasize the “kindness” of Pope Francis: an attitude which, along with education and respect must “become part of our daily practice, often a smile is worth a thousand words.”  Ucoii expands by saying “we are strengthened by the purification period which has just ended and we want to express to his Holiness our gratitude for the message which he personally sent.”

Pope Francis Writes to Muslims, I feel like your brother

August 2, 2013

“As you all know, when the Cardinals elected me as the Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor of the Catholic Church, I chose the name of Francis, a very famous saint, deeply loved by God and every human being, to the point of being called the ‘universal brother.’” The Pope wrote in a message “to Muslims around the world” on the occasion of “the conclusion of the month of Ramadan, chiefly devoted to fasting, prayer and almsgiving.” In the text, the Pope follows a tradition that, on this occasion, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue sends a goodwill message, accompanied by a theme offered for joint consideration. “This year, the first of my Pontificate, I decided to send this message to you, dear friends, as an expression of esteem and friendship for all Muslims, especially those who are religious leaders.”

From Magdi Allam in Lampedusa: The Revolution of the Church

July 8, 2013

Comparing Ratzinger and Bergoglio would be wrong. Also unfair. These are two Popes who we respect and appreciate.

However, it is hard not to notice the images and words, which also changed in the age of communication. Personally, I still think of the scene, broadcast on television around the world, of the baptism of Magdi Allam, made personally by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Basilica during the Easter Vigil of 2008.

The same Allam that, after the election of Bergoglio, five years later said: “My conversion to Catholicism is no longer. The legitimacy of Islam as the true religion Allah as the true God, Muhammad as a true prophet, and the Koran as the sacred text and the mosque as a place of worship, these things more than any other factor drove me away from the Church. I’m rather convinced that Islam is an inherently violent ideology. Even more I am convinced that Europe will end up being submissive to Islam, as has already happened since the seventh century. Christians will not have the vision and the courage to denounce the incompatibility of Islam with civilization and the fundamental rights of the person.”

Today in Lampedusa, the Pope came to bear witness to the tragedy of migrants. Most of them are Muslim; men faced the risk of death (and many die) to escape from hunger, misery and despair. To them the Pope sent his best wishes for the start of Ramadan. Horror, for many. But not for the ideals of ​​the Church of Pope Francis.

From Magdi Allam in full regalia to the choice of being among the poor and the outcasts of Lampedusa. The pope’s presence is a blow to the globalization of indifference and intolerance.

Pope: with Muslims, Francis did not disappoint. After Ramadan a greeting “O’scia” [local dialect greeting] in Lampedusa

July 8, 2013

“It’s a historic gesture,” “beautiful words”: the Islamic Italian community welcomes with enthusiasm and gratitude the words of the Pope, who, now in Lampedusa has addressed Muslims: “to the dear Muslim immigrants who are tonight beginning the fast of Ramadan, the pope also wished them “O’scia” an affectionate greeting in the local Lampedusan dialect which means “my breath.”

“The Pope confirmed expectations that have sustained Muslims and immigrants about openness to dialogue and the promotion of tolerance” says Sherif El Sebaie, Egyptian intellectual and member of the Islamic Community in Turin “this is what we expected with from the new pontificate, and the Pope did not disappoint.”

The president of UCOII (Union of Islamic Italian Communities), Ezzildin Elzir explained “the beautiful words of the pope have meaning and are very important.”

Elzir emphasized “an interfaith dialogue which for previous decades has continued with the Catholic Church” and he also recalls how Pope John Paul II called for “our Christian brethren to dedicate a day of sharing with Muslims, October 27.” “This, I think, is the reality of the Muslim and Christian world: our dialogue, which will continue while we share our spirituality” the leader of UCOII added “Francis’s message is very important at this historical moment, in which the southern shores of the Mediterranean are experiencing very difficult times: people of good will can see this is a very important part in the world, more than 1 and a half billion Christians, have a hand open to dialogue and discussion. I believe that in this way we can overcome the extremists of this or that part.”

Speaking of “historical gestures” the president of the Community of the Arab world in Italy (Comai), Foad Aodi, expressed, on behalf of the whole community “gratitude” for the choice of the Pope to go to Lampedusa. He explained Francis’s gesture “is unique, important and tangible to remember all those invisible dead fallen in the sea of ​​Sicily” and “to remind politicians to field constructive solutions and human resources to help immigrants in distress — for the poor and refugees.” And it was “very significant” to visit  “Lampedusa one day before the start of Ramadan, the holy month in Islam and also for immigrants, refugees and Muslim prisoners who are about to fast even though they are in very difficult conditions.”

The president of the Islamic center in Viale Jenner in Milan, Abdel Hamid Shaari, also appreciated the gesture, “it is a good thing that the Pope will travel to Lampedusa to meet those poor people who pay a high price to get to Italy.” “We thank you and say” he added “that we are open to any dialogue and inter-religious meetings.”

Lampedusa awaits the Pope who will meet Muslim Immigrants

7/7/2013

 

Last minute preparations are being made on the Island for the arrival of the Pope on Monday morning at 9:15. Likely 15,000 in attendance, the mayor: “A visit at no cost thanks to the involvement of citizens”.

 

The Pope will meet one of the fifty Muslim refugees at Pier Favaloro in Lampedusa. This was confirmed by the parish priest of the island, Don Stefano Nastas. “We chose” explains Fr Stepheno “men, women, children, and youth. They are representative of those who are at the reception center.” For the Pope’s visit, 15,000 people are expected, including thousands of pilgrims.

The Program. The Pope will depart from Ciampino Airport at 8 am and at 9:15 am will land on the island where he will be welcomed by the Archbishop of Agrigento, Francesco Montenegro, and the Mayor of Pelagie, Giusi Nicolini. Off the coast, near the port of Europe, He will launch a wreath in memory of those who lost their lives at sea. At 9:30, a boat will enter the port where customarily immigrants arrive. At 10, the mass. Papa Francesco use a chalice made ​​with wooden pieces from the boats of immigrants. At 11:30, the pontiff will reach the parish of St. Gerland. At 12:30 will leave the parish and will go to the airport at 12:45 where he will land at Ciampino airport an hour later. During his visit, the Pope will meet with, as mentioned, a delegation of 50 migrants who are housed at the reception center on the island.