The Bishop Welcomes a New Mosque
On Saturday September 15, while Muslims were rampaging on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, a new mosque was being inaugurated in the city of Épinal, department of les Vosges. The bishop of Saint-Dié, Jean-Paul Mathieu (left), delivered a glowing speech of appreciation for the efforts of the Muslims who contributed to the construction. Here are excerpts from that speech. He first acknowledges the dignitaries present, including the prefect, the mayor, the president of the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Religion), and the grand mufti of the mosque:
I thank you for inviting me to the official inauguration of your Épinal mosque. You've been waiting a long time. It is beautiful: you can be proud, for it is the fruit of the efforts of Muslims from your region. You were able to count on the understanding of the municipal authorities, attentive to the progress of integration ("vivre-ensemble"), as we have often observed.
You worship the One God, living and merciful, as so many believers have done since Abraham. Concerned about holding a service to worship God through prayer, you wanted a place worthy and suitable for your tradition. As Catholic Christians, we believe that it is good that you, our Muslim friends, have such a place, allowing you to worship God as your conscience dictates.
Christians everywhere also want to benefit from freedom of conscience and the freedom to hold a service. Even now, in some places, it is sometimes very difficult for them to build churches. We can therefore only rejoice at the good relations that are progressing here and the good understanding and the dialogue that has been developing in les Vosges for more than ten years, in humility and respect, in order that we may work together towards social peace.
History has taught us, not without difficulty sometimes, to live our Christian faith in the respect of freedom of conscience and concern for inter-religious dialogue: the Second Vatican Council that opened in Rome fifty years ago marked a decisive stage in this dialogue. I quote: "Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom."
Note: See the entire text of Nostra Aetate from the Second Vatican Council in English here.
The bishop then evokes the voyage of Benedict XVI to Lebanon:
One of the aspects of the visit of our Pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon is this step towards peace and openness to all believers to encourage them to live together.
He also urges us to "eradicate religious fundamentalism". The current news is catching up with us. Fundamentalism is a grave obstacle to freedom, to dignity, and therefore, to faith. In his Exhortation for the Middle East that he signed yesterday, near Beirut - and that speaks to us - Pope Benedict XVI affirmed that fundamentalism "afflicts all religious communities."
Fundamentalism, I quote: "wants to gain power, at times violently, over individual consciences, and over religion itself, for political reasons. I appeal urgently to all Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders in the region to seek, by their example and by their teaching, to do everything in their power to eliminate this menace which indiscriminately and fatally affects believers of all religions." Let's remember that mutual respect and dialogue must always be sought.
Note: The full text of the Pope's long speech, which contains much historical information and social commentary, can be found here.
In our country, the road to dialogue and collaboration exist in les Vosges, in particular in the region of Épinal and Remiremont, for example. Let us work in the esteem of our legitimate differences and in mutuel understanding, within a secular society, that gives the different religions their place and allows them to develop in respect.
I praise the courage and perseverance of those who brought this project to fruition, and I hope you make good use of it, for the spiritual good of those who will frequent the mosque, so that peace in our hearts and peace between all of us and between peoples grows, God willing.
Note: Never has the term "Ivory Tower" resonated with more bitter irony than in this pathetic speech by a Catholic bishop welcoming those who have come to dispossess him of his Church, his goods, and possibly his life.
And as he spoke, crowds in Paris were screaming "death to the Jews", attacking police officers, and creating mayhem (below).