ROME: THE Vatican has distanced itself from a row over Muslims in Europe triggered by the showing at a synod of a video that claims ”Europe as we know it will cease to exist”.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Vatican’s council for justice and peace – and seen as a possible future pope – played the video in a discussion period on Saturday during a synod attended by 262 bishops from across the world.
Titled Muslim Demographics, and viewed more than 13 million times on YouTube since its release in 2009, the seven-minute video claims Muslim immigration and higher birth rates mean France will become ”an Islamic republic” within 39 years.
But many of the statistics used have been shown to be false or unproven, including a claim that French Muslim families have 8.1 children on average, and that 25 per cent of Belgians are Muslims – the true figure is 6 per cent. A German government official is falsely quoted as saying Germany will be a Muslim state by 2050.
Yesterday a Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, sought to distance the Pope from the video, saying: ”This video does not express the view of the synod or the Vatican. Turkson has said he is sorry if the video was wrongly interpreted since he did not intend it to be anti-Muslim, merely a comment on the nihilism in Western society.”
Bishops who watched the video were reportedly shocked by its content. ”I think it would be fair to say that several in the room questioned the veracity of the facts followed by ‘Who can this be attributed to?’ and ‘Who actually wanted this film to be shown?”’ said Father Thomas Rosica during a press briefing.
Vatican radio was more critical, calling the video ”fearmongering”, adding: ”Why one of the curial cardinals chose to show this piece of anti-Islamic propaganda is quite unclear.”
Pope Benedict has stressed the importance of defending Europe’s Christian identity, but he has also promoted dialogue with Muslims, most recently during his visit to Lebanon last month. Last week he read out a greeting in Arabic for the first time during his weekly general audience.
Cardinal Turkson, who is from Ghana, has said previously that theological dialogue with Muslims is impossible. Known for his strong views, the cardinal proposed the creation of a global bank after the global economic crisis began in 2008.
One bishop at the synod asked about the video was less critical, telling the US weekly National Catholic Reporter: ”At least it got us talking about something more important than what order confirmation and first communion ought to be in.”
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