Category Archives: Interfaith Dialogue

Ahmed al-Tayeb criticizes Benedict for interfering in Egypt; AND a response given

Jesuit Father
Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office, responded to what I
believe is unfair, even bigoted criticism of Pope Benedict by Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb of Egypt
following the January 1st bombing of a Coptic Orthodox church. 21 dead and
nearly a 100 wounded. Clear it is to me, the Muslim world rarely pays close attention to what the Catholic Church believes and what the Pope says.

Ahmed al-Tayeb, current current Imam of al-Azhar Mosque,
condemned the bombing. The imam paid a visit to the head of the Coptic Orthodox
Church, Pope Shenouda III to offer condolences. But his good will toward the
Christians however, also include a strident criticism Pope Benedict who asked civil
authorities to protect Christians. In Al-Tayeb’s mind the Pope’s request was an
“unacceptable interference in Egypt’s affairs.” Further, said al-Tayeb, “I
disagree with the Pope’s view, and I ask why did the Pope not call for the
protection of Muslims when they were subjected to killings in Iraq?”

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Happy Hanukkah 2010


A blessed and happy Hanukkah!

Catholics don’t celebrate Jewish holy days, why?

Not long ago a friend asked me why Catholics don’t celebrate
the Jewish holy days. Good question.

A response to the question as to why we
don’t celebrate the Jewish holy days would be along these lines: the Paschal
Triduum is the Christian Passover, the true Pasch. Even the Greek and Latin
name for Easter tells us that (as also the derivation of the name for Easter in
Spanish, French, Italian from the same root).

In one sense, Jesus’ teaching was
in continuity with Judaism (Mt 5.17: “Think not that I have come to abolish
the Law”); but he also in Matthew 5 puts himself forward as a higher Lawgiver
than Moses (“you have heard it said, but I tell you…”). I suggest
reading Rabbi Jacob Neusner’s book, A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, which makes this
point very clear. The Pope himself said in Jesus of Nazareth that Neusner’s book is
an excellent example of honest and reasoned argument between a believing Jew
and the Jesus of the gospels.

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Muslim man dances on altar

On October 11, a Muslim managed to get up and dance on
the altar of the Florence’s Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the famed cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Florence.

Apparently, the man brought his ghetto blaster to the cathedral and played Michael Jackson’s song, “Bad.”

Here are the  pictures
of this unbelievable event. The perpetrator does not speak Italian, but it’s reported that he prayed several time in Arabic.

Interesting…I am not sure what to make of this act of disrespect. Surely this man was out of his mind, right? Is this the result of the multiculturalism that the liberal West promotes and condones as a matter of religious freedom? What would Whoopi Goldberg say about this event? Could she bring herself to re-think her objections to Bill O’Reilly’s ideas the day when she stormed off the stage on live TV?

Where is the Christian protest? Why are the Catholics of Florence so quiet about this act of insensitivity??? Please tell me!

No Islamic worship in former mosque, bishop says

Córdoba cathedral.jpgEuronews reported today that the bishop of Córdoba, Bishop Demetrio Fernández González made a decision not allow Muslim worship in a former mosque in what is today a Roman Catholic Cathedral. I believe that Bishop Demetrio made a correct and prudent decision here.

But his reasoning seems to lack some precision: it is not the length of time (or how the building came to be Catholic), it’s legal title is held by the Church much like Hagia Sophia’s title is not held by the Church but by a museum. Christians accept this latter fact and are not arguing for its return. The Cathedral is a Catholic Church and no longer a mosque even though the two religions worship the transcendent God.

In Nostra Aetate and in other statements of the Holy See teach that Muslims worship the God of Abraham. They believe in only one and their intention is to worship that one, transcendent God and is the same God that Jews and Christians worship.

Without getting into theological specifics here, it has be noted that with the Muslim religion there is doubt among theologians and experts about nature of the divine inspiration of the Koran and the place of Muhammad as a true prophet; but the Muslims can’t be accused of not worshipping one God and the elements that are true in Islam come from Judaism and Christianity which were present in Muhammad’s time. Some would make the claim that the tenets of Islam are similar to a Christian heresy much like Arianism. Orthodox Christians accept that Arians believed in the God who revealed Himself in the Bible however Arianism is rejected because of its denial of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity.

A friend raised a question about Jews and Christians viz. as what might be said of Muslims. The difference with Islam that can’t be applied to Judaism is that we believe Judaism to be true but incomplete without Jesus; the Torah and the books of the Old Testament is the inspired word of God.

So for these reasons Christians and Muslims cannot worship together or share places of worship because Islam does not have an orthodox faith.

Secular and pluralistic society won’t agree on what makes a religion true: talk about truth and heresy makes no sense to people who question the possibility of there being truth, claims of objective truth and revelation. Therefore, I think the matter needs to be addressed in terms of reason.

Catholic worship of God in a consecrated space has a special and essential distinction because the Church is a place of sacrifice and salvation with its focus on the person of Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life; no confusion should happen. The same line of thinking would apply to other religions and for Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Additionally, it’s not merely “opening the door” for the possible expulsion of Catholics again from their mother church but it is improper to allow a religion who does not accept even the basics of Christian faith to worship in a “Catholic space” –and so frequently at odds with Christianity as seen in the murder of Catholic clerics– and against reason.

Historically, Córdoba is a Roman city but was forcibly converted to Islam in 711 and recaptured by the Spanish King Ferdinand III in 1236. For much of the 525 years that Córdoba was Muslim it was also caliphate, the seat of authority. What is intellectually interesting is that The Great Mosque of Córdoba was the protector of the world’s largest library at that time estimated to have between 400,000 and 1 million volumes (I can’t account for a discrepancy but the numbers are impressive).

Having visited Córdoba a few years ago I can say that the Islamic influence of former times is still very recognizable and much of the artwork beautiful, even though I can’t read Arabic.

Córdoba ceiling.jpg

The article:

“Bishop Demetrio Fernández González of the southern
Spanish city of Córdoba, once the seat of Muslim power in Spain, said that he
will not permit Islamic worship at the city’s cathedral. The cathedral was
formerly a mosque, which in turn had been built on the site of a Catholic

“Sharing the cathedral with Muslims, Bishop Fernández González said in
an interview, “is a euphemism which means: get Catholics out of here … The
answer to the question about sharing the Cathedral is that no, we’re not,
because this place has been a Catholic church 16 centuries, while Muslims have
been four and half centuries.”

“If I let in the Muslims pray in the
cathedral of Cordoba, it is equivalent to Catholics saying goodbye and good
night; it would be irresponsible,” he added. “There are things that are
shared and others that are not, and the cathedral of Cordoba is not shared with
Muslims (…)”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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