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CNN Vatican Reporter: Islam is “Driving the Train” of Vatican Interfaith Relations

Posted on November 27 2010 11:00 pm
Lisa Graas has covered politics and religion at her blog since 2008. She has served as a crisis pregnancy counselor, youth speaker, mental health advocate and legislative consultant.

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As Pope Benedict XVI prepares his apostolic letter to the Middle East, CNN’s Vatican reporter John Allen claims that Israel should be thrown under the bus (or, more accurately, the “train”) and calls for the Vatican to “be a bridge builder with Shia.” Does Allen really believe the Islamist “train” is a Peace Train?

John Allen, senior writer at National Catholic Reporter (a.k.a. “fishwrap“), and CNN’s Vatican reporter, gave his views about Vatican interfaith relations recently during a forum held at the Abrahamic Center of Notre Dame College. His remarks were discussed in an article at the Cleveland Jewish News. The article does not make clear whether Allen was specifically asked about Archbishop Bustros’ comments at the Middle East Synod in which it was claimed that Jews are no longer the Chosen People, but everything Allen said should be read in that context.

With Islam “driving the train” of Catholic interfaith relations, Allen said the church needs reform in other faith traditions. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the Koran is the Constitution. Any non-Islamic religious expression is prohibited and even private gatherings are aggressively policed.

[…] Allen also urged the Vatican to seek better relations with Shia Muslims, not the Sunnis, who are the majority in the Persian Gulf region and control 30% of the world’s oil supply. Unlike Sunnis, who emphasize Scripture alone, Shia, like Catholics, follow tradition, such as teachings called hadith, alongside Scripture.

‘We can talk to Shiites,’ Allen said. ‘We can talk about politics and policy, but with a shared spiritual commitment. The Catholic church is ideally positioned to be a bridge builder with Shia.’

First, in regard to the “train” comment, it should be noted that Allen is referring not to the Vatican as a whole but only to the office of Inter-religious Dialogue. The Vatican has focused somewhat less on interfaith relations than on the rise of secularism, particularly in the West. In fact, the newly formed Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization focuses on the West, including Europe where the rise of Islam threatens to overwhelm an increasingly secularized continent.

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