ROME, MAY 29, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Mary has a place in Islam too, says a Vatican aide.
“God is the only point of reference for the Muslim believer, but next to him are those who reflect his holiness. Mary is one of them,” Archbishop Francesco Gioia, president of the Pilgrimages to the See of Peter.
The archbishop expounds on that point in a book, “Mary, Mother of the Word, Model of Dialogue Between Religions,” published by Città Nuova.
“Mary occupies an outstanding place in Islam,” he said. “She is the only woman whose name the Koran mentions — up to 34 times.”
Mary is particularly fascinating to Muslims. “She is the model of all believers because of her absolute faith and perfect ‘submission’ to the will of God,” he added.
“Vatican Council II took note of the benevolent attitude of the Muslims toward Mary, and in the declaration ‘Nostra Aetate‘ one reads: ‘They honor Mary, the virginal mother (of Jesus), and at times invoke her with devotion,” the archbishop observed.
Muslim faithful’s affection and devotion for Mary is reflected in the pilgrimages they undertake to Marian shrines, especially Fatima, and in the fact that many Muslim women are called Mary, he added.
According to the Koran, “an angel, by order of God, announced to Mary that she would give birth to a most pure son, a message that disturbed her. She gave birth under a palm tree that nourished her miraculously. She was a virgin and pure. She safeguarded her virginity and God infused his Spirit in her, making her and her son a sign for creatures,” Archbishop Gioia noted.
“In the Koran it is stated that Mary ‘is one of the devoted women and is a saint. She is preferred, purified and chosen by God over all the women of creation,'” he added.
“In the Koran, Mary has a decided Christological function, underlined by the prevailing designation of Jesus as ‘son of Mary,'” he continued.
Biographical and spiritual elements of the Koran on Mary differ from Christian tradition, however.
“Muslim Mariology is irremediably conditioned by the Koran’s explicit denial of the divinity of Jesus Christ,” he said.
On the figure of Mary there are “points of convergence and of divergence between Christians and Muslims,” Archbishop Gioia said. “[But] the fact must not be minimized that Muslim tradition proposes Mary as a model to the faithful of Islam.”