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Another Useless “First”
for “Interreligious Dialogue”

by Christopher A. Ferrara

During his recent trip to Turkey the Pope entered the Blue Mosque in Istanbul — only the second Pope in Church history to enter a mosque. At the suggestion of the Mufti who accompanied him, one Mustafa Cagrici, the Pope turned toward Mecca and bowed his head together with the Mufti for about two minutes.

As the AFP news service reported the incident: “Cagrici said: ‘Let us turn toward the Kiblah’ — the direction of Mecca, which all Muslims must face when they perform their prayers five times a day. The pope complied. The two men, clad in long white robes, stood side by side and motionless for about two minutes, their hands crossed on their stomachs in a classical Muslim prayer attitude known as ‘the posture of tranquility.’”

So, the Vicar of Christ went into a mosque and prayed (or meditated) alongside a mufti.To what end? Why should the Vicar of Christ go into a Muslim temple and face Mecca alongside a minister of the false religion founded by Mohamed, who denied the divinity of Christ? What does such a gesture accomplish for the cause of the Gospel for which the Pope has primary responsibility as the earthly head of the one true Church outside of which, as her infallible dogma proclaims, no one at all is saved?

What is the point of such gestures? Is the point that Islam is valid religion and that its temples are legitimate holy places? If that was the point, then the Pope has caused the gravest of scandals by implying a terrible falsehood with his actions. But if the Pope had no intention of conveying any such impression, then why go into the mosque with the mufti, face Mecca at his suggestion, and pray alongside him?

According to AKI news agency (December 7, 2006) the Vatican considers the Pope’s gesture a “new horizon in interreligious dialogue.” This according to Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, who heads the Italian Bishop Conference's interreligious dialogue commission. “For the first time a Pope appealed to God in a Mosque. Not even Pope John Paul II did it in the Damascus Mosque,” Paglia enthused.

But we are not to think that the Pope in any way made a “concession to relativism and confusion,” said Paglia. The gesture was perfectly harmless, he argued, because “The Pope did not pray together with the Mufti, but turning towards the East he prayed next to the Mufti and not in the same manner. That of standing side-by-side represents how followers of different faiths can stand next to each other in prayer, which is the most pure act in any religion, and together can renew fraternity, peace and forgiveness.”

But what message does that send if not the message that all religions are good and pleasing to God — so good, in fact, that the Vicar of Christ will enter their temples and dignify their ministers with his presence alongside them in prayer?

As Paglia and the other defenders of these gestures would have it, however, the Pope does not cause any confusion or scandal when he enters a temple that honors the memory of a false prophet whose man-made religion denies the divinity of Christ, stands side-by-side with a minister of this false prophet, faces Mecca at his suggestion, and then shares a moment prayer with him — so long as the Pope inwardly distinguishes his prayer from that of the mufti. And this sort of hairsplitting is supposed to assuage all concerns of the faithful.

No one should have been the least surprised to learn that the Pope’s gesture will accomplish nothing whatever to bring Muslims closer to the light of Christ. Quite the contrary, “the Muslim community” has no intention of reciprocating the gesture by having a mufti enter a Catholic Church. As CWNews.com reported on December 6th, “Turkey’s top Islamic official has conceded that he would not be prepared to make the sort of gesture that Pope Benedict XVI made last week, when the Holy Father prayed silently at the Blue Mosque. In response to a journalist’s question about a reciprocal gesture, Ali Bardakoglu, the government’s religion minister, said: ‘It is not right to expect that others will pray as the Pope did.’”

Of course not. “Interreligious dialogue,” like “ecumenism” is a one-way street. Only the Catholic Church is expected to make concessions, to change her ways. Indeed, thanks to these twin novelties, the Pope is regarded as fulfilling his function to the highest precisely to the degree that he is willing to stoop to the level of false religions with unprecedented gestures of this kind.

From the perspective of the practitioners of “interreligious dialogue,” the Pope’s gesture in the Blue Mosque is indeed a “new horizon.” But for the faithful who believe that the Pope is not a goodwill ambassador to other religions but rather the Vicar of Christ, charged by God Himself with the preservation of the dogma of the Faith and the integrity of Catholic Tradition as a whole, it is yet another new low in the downward course of the human element of the Church since Vatican II.

Surely this unprecedented decline of the Church is what is foretold in the Third Secret of Fatima. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!