Should we convert Muslims or be inspired by their faith? The question of the relationship with Islam has given rise in recent decades to diverse and even radically opposed positions in the Church, sometimes not without tensions among Catholics who have been able to accuse themselves of “proselytes” or “naive”. These questions which also concern them, the bishops addressed head on during their Plenary Assembly.
An assembly ” peaceful “ and relaxed – after recent editions ” under pressure “as recognized by Mgr Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Conference of Bishops of France, referring to the abuse scandals and the work that continues to remedy them -, but also ” severe “while the war in the Middle East rages.
At the heart of their discussions was the question of the connection between dialogue and mission. An old question, under discussion since the Second Vatican Council and the declaration Nostra Aetate on relations with other religions, but very lively today, while the Church of France is considering ways to become more missionary again in a society in search of meaning and marked by a plurality of religious offerings.
“Dialogue, in itself, is a missionary mode”
To help them in their reflection, the dean of the Faculty of Theology of Lyon and specialist in interreligious dialogue, Michel Younès, has drawn up a typology of the different trends. Between a minimalist vision which sees in Islam only an error or a heresy, and a maximalist vision for which it is one path of salvation among others, the bishops were invited to take a “middle way”Or “superior”of firm determination to dialogue, but without naivety, which can go as far as the explicit testimony of one’s faith and the welcoming of converts from Islam.
“We inherited a certain vagueness on these questions, linked to the very generous commitment of a whole generation of Christians involved in dialogue with Muslims, which we have difficulty renewing and who were not sensitive to the same aspects than the younger generations”, recognizes Mgr Olivier Leborgne, Bishop of Arras.
” Today, he continues, we understand well that the dynamic of dialogue is not cyclical or demagogic, it is not a resignation on our part, but it is rooted in our very theological foundations: with dialogue, we take the path that God took to reveal himself to us. Dialogue, in itself, is a missionary mode. »
A subtle balance to maintain, which was also insisted on by the director of the National Service for Relations with Muslims, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Dominican Jean-François Bour: “The usual style of Christian witness is dialogue and it must remain so, we must never forget it. Any more explicit announcement of the Christian faith can only be expressed within this style. It is the very style of the God of Christians who revealed himself in a dialogue with man. »
“In certain neighborhoods, it is difficult to exist freely”
Firm determination to dialogue, therefore, but without naivety. “We have not hidden the fact that, in certain neighborhoods, it is difficult for young Christians to exist freely in the face of very proselytizing young Muslims,” underlined Mgr de Moulins-Beaufort. For bishops, the challenge is in particular to ensure that “Christian communities are structuring for these young people from working-class backgrounds who are under strong pressure from young Muslims, in order to enable them to be solid in their faith”notes Jean-François Bour.
This bias towards dialogue is all the more demanding in a context of the rise of Salafism and other currents disinclined to dialogue with Christians. Facing the hostility of certain Muslim circles can also put this determination to openness to the test…
“For us too, bishops, when we are touched, the best evangelical feelings are not always there, there is an inner work to continue to love our neighbor,” recognizes Mgr Dominique Lebrun, the archbishop of Rouen, still marked by the trial of the accomplices of the murderers of Father Jacques Hamel and by the inscription “Kuffar (disbelievers, Editor’s note) out “remained for more than two days on the wall of a district of Rouen in February 2022. However, he admits, “Also hearing from our Muslim interlocutors, when trust is sufficiently established, their own concerns about young people they are unable to reach does us a lot of good. It’s a kind of cry for help from them too.”
Immigration and abortion, the episcopate takes a position
At the end of their Plenary Assembly, the bishops of France published, Wednesday November 8, two declarationson the bill on immigration and on the possible inclusion of the freedom to abort in the Constitution.
Regarding the immigration billthe bishops call for “resist the temptation to reduce migration issues to security issues, terrorism or delinquency” and not to look at migrants as ” threat “. They also highlight the need to contribute “to the efforts of cooperation and social justice which allow people to remain with dignity in their country”. On the inclusion of abortion in the Constitution, the bishops say their ” worry “ : “To include it among fundamental rights would be to damage their entire balance. »
The episcopate also voted to open the cause, with a view to a possible beatification, of Mgr Bienvenu de Miollis and Dom Prosper Guéranger.