Pope Notes Difficulties Posed by Muslim Immigrants

Cautions About the Integration of Peoples

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The dialogue and welcome that Catholics must offer immigrants poses «unknowns and difficulties,» particularly with Muslims, says John Paul II.

«Each culture is an approach to the mystery of man, also to his religious dimension, and this explains, as the Second Vatican Council affirms, why some elements of truth are also outside the revealed message,» the Pope said today when receiving the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.

The Holy Father presented the new context of globalization and migrations as an opportunity for interreligious dialogue and evangelization, but acknowledged that there are difficulties.

«The integration of peoples who belong to different religions and cultures is never exempt from unknowns and difficulties,» he said. «This is true, in particular, for the immigration of Muslim believers, who pose specific problems.»

These difficulties are illustrated in the instruction «The Love of Christ Towards Migrants,» published May 14 by the pontifical council.

In the context of reception of Muslim immigrants, No. 65 states that Vatican II calls for «purification of memory regarding past misunderstandings, to cultivate common values and to clarify and respect diversity, but without renouncing Christian principles.»

«Catholic communities are therefore called upon to practice discernment,» the document states. «It is a question of distinguishing between what can be and cannot be shared in the religious doctrines and practices and in the moral laws of Islam.»

«Belief in God the Creator and the Merciful, daily prayer, fasting, alms-giving, pilgrimage, asceticism to dominate the passions, and the fight against injustice and oppression are common values to be found in Christianity too, though they may be expressed or manifested in a different manner,» No. 66 of the instruction clarifies.

«Besides these points of agreement there are, however, also divergences, some of which have to do with legitimate acquisitions of modern life and thought,» the document says.

It continues: «Thinking in particular of human rights, we hope that there will be, on the part of our Muslim brothers and sisters, a growing awareness that fundamental liberties, the inviolable rights of the person, the equal dignity of man and woman, the democratic principle of government, and the healthy lay character of the State are principles that cannot be surrendered.»

Regarding the possibility of a request for marriage of a Catholic woman with a Muslim, «bitter experience teaches» that «a particularly careful and in-depth preparation is called for,» the document states.

«During it the two fiancés will be helped to know and consciously ‘assume’ the profound cultural and religious differences they will have to face, both between themselves and in relation to their respective families and the Muslim’s original environment, to which they may possibly return after a period spent abroad,» the document says.

«If the marriage is registered with a Consulate of the Islamic country of origin, the Catholic party must beware of reciting or signing documents containing the ‘shahada’ (profession of the Muslim belief),» the Vatican instruction cautions.

«In any case, the marriage between a Catholic and a Muslim, if celebrated in spite of all this, requires not only canonical dispensation but also the support of the Catholic community both before and after marriage,» it stipulates.

«One of the most important tasks of Catholic associations, volunteer workers and counseling services will be to help these families educate their children and, if need be, to support the least protected member of the Muslim family, that is the woman, to know and insist on her rights,» it continues.

Lastly, it addresses the baptism of the children and states that «the norms of the two religions are in stark contrast. The problem must therefore be raised with absolute clarity during the preparation for marriage, and the Catholic party must take a firm stand on what the Church requires.»

The instruction adds: «Conversion and the request for Baptism by adult Muslims also require very careful attention, both because of the particular nature of the Muslim religion, and the consequences that follow from this.»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation