· Vatican City ·

Christians and Muslims
Protecting together the places of worship

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Message for the month of Ramadan and ’Id al-Fitr

02 May 2020

This year too, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) has sent to the Islamic community the traditional message of best wishes on the occasion of the month of Ramadan, which began on 23 April, and of ’Id al-Fitr (1441 H. / 2020 A.D.), the feast that marks its conclusion. Published on Friday, 1 May, the text was prepared before the surge of the Covid-19 pandemic, and reflects on the theme of respect and of protection of places of worship. “Th e re f o re ”, the Combonian Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ, explained in a note, “I would like, as PCID President, to add the wish that Christians and Muslims, united in the spirit of fraternity, may demonstrate solidarity with the humanity so harshly stricken, and address their prayers to Almighty and Merciful God, that he extend his protection over every human being, so that these such difficult moments may be overcome”. Moreover, the Cardinal explained in an interview given to Vatican News, the feast is “essential, important and meaningful for our Muslim friends, although as Easter also was for us, for them too this year it assumes a particular significance due to the pandemic”. In essence it is a Ramadan experienced in “a more interior dimension, because the community aspect cannot be celebrated”. And in this regard he recalled what “Pope Francis, in this difficult situation, has called us to spread”, which is “the ‘contagion of hope’”, encouraging “the different religious leaders to promote unity, solidarity and brotherhood, so that from this moment on we may all come out better than what we were before and help our societies to be ready to change all that is necessary, not following only the laws of economy and p ro f i t ”. The following is the English text of the PCID Message, signed by the Cardinal President and the Secretary of the Dicastery, Msgr Indunil Kodithuwakku Janakaratne Kankanamalage.

Dear Muslim brothers and sisters,

The month of Ramadan is so central in your religion and therefore dear to you at personal, familial and social levels. It is a time for spiritual healing and growth, of sharing with the poor, of strengthening bonds with relatives and friends.

For us, your Christian friends, it  is a propitious time to further strengthen our relationships with you, by greeting you, meeting you on this occasion and, where possible, by sharing in an iftar with you. Ramadan and ’Jd al-Fitr thus are special occasions to foster fraternity between Christians and Muslims. It is in this spirit that the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue offers its prayerful best wishes and hearty congratulations to you all.

The thoughts we like to share with you this year following our cherished tradition are about the protection of the places of worship. As we all know, the places of worship occupy an important place in Christianity and Islam, and in other religions as well. For both Christians and Muslims, churches and mosques are spaces reserved for prayer, personal and communitarian alike. They are constructed and furnished in a way that favours silence, reflection and meditation. They are spaces where one can go deep in himself/ herself, so favouring for God-experience in silence. A place of worship of any religion therefore is “a house of prayer” (Isaiah 56, 7).

Places of worship are also spaces for spiritual hospitality, where believers of other religions also join for some special ceremonies like weddings, funerals, feasts of the community etc. While they participate in the events in silence and with due respect to the religious observances of the believers of that particular religion, they also savour the hospitality accorded to them. Such practice is a privileged witness to what unites believers, without diminishing or denying what distinguishes them.

In this regard, it is worthwhile to recall what Pope Francis said when he made a visit to the Heydar Aliyev Mosque, in Baku (Azerbaijan) on Sunday, 2 October 2016: “Meeting one another in fraternal friendship in this place of prayer is a powerful sign, one that shows the harmony which religions can build together, based on personal relations and on the good will of those responsible”.

 In the context of recent attacks on churches, mosques and synagogues by wicked persons who seem to perceive the places of worship as a privileged target for their blind and senseless violence, it is worth noting what the Document on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”, signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al- Azhar, Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, in Abu Dhabi, on 4 February 2019, said: “The protection of places of worship — synagogues, churches and mosques — is a duty guaranteed by religions, human values, laws and international agreements. Every attempt to attack places of worship or threaten them by violent assaults, bombings or destruction, is a deviation from the teachings of religions as well as a clear violation of international law”.

While appreciating the efforts done by the international community at different levels for the protection of the places of worship worldwide, it is our hope that our mutual esteem, respect and cooperation will help strengthen the bonds of sincere friendship, and enable our communities to safeguard the places of worship to assure for coming generations the fundamental freedom to profess one’s own beliefs.

With renewed esteem and fraternal greetings, in the name of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, we convey friendly wishes for a fruitful month of Ramadan and a joyous ’Id al-Fitr.

From the Vatican, 17 April 2020