Statement on the visit of the Pope to Ireland
Statement– Papal Visit to Ireland
As an Irish Muslim scholar, I warmly welcome His HolinessPope Francis to Ireland and congratulate the Catholic community of Ireland on the arrival of the Pope.
Some may wonder why I am welcoming the Pope to Ireland as a Muslim scholar. This is because the common perception of Islam in the Christian world is one of austerity, rigidity, and, in extreme cases, severe cruelty. The situation is not helped by the strict and radical interpretation of the religion by a number of its adherents that in some cases has led to the persecution of Christians in certain Muslim majority countries.
Both Islam and Christianity are religions of revelation centeredon a sacred text. Prophet Abraham is as important a figure in the Qur’an as he is in the Bible. He is considered the first in a long line of prophets of God, that includes Noah, Moses, Joseph, David, John the Baptist and Jesus.
In addition,Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic religions, believing that there is only one God. Other beliefs they hold in common are the virgin birth of Prophet Jesus, the second coming of Jesus before the Day of Judgement, the appearance of the Anti-Christ and the concept of Hell and Paradise.
Islam and Christianity are the two largest religions and Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace between the followers of these two great religions, there can be no meaningful peace in the world.
Pope Francis is a Pope the Christian community should be very proud of. Pope Francis has on many occasions followed the footsteps of his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, and reached out to other communities to build bridges. He has reached out specially to Muslims and there have been many kind gestures from the Pope towards Islam and Muslims.
Ireland is undoubtedly a very different Ireland than the last Papal visit in 1979. The Church has let many of its members down due to the scandals and the manner in which the Church dealt with these scandals hurt many specially the victims. The mistake made by its leadership to protect institutions instead of victims is a mistake that is also made by some Muslim and other faith leaders when religious leaders exploit their position of trust and authority.
I expect from Pope Francis, during his visit, that he will not only address the clerical abuse victims but also meet some of the victims. It is also important that concrete steps are taken by the Vatican to hold clerical sex offenders and those who protect them accountable for their crimes. Lessons should be learnt from the past and all religious communities must ensure that the most robust systems are in place so that such crimes can never happen. I am a strong advocate of child protection policies in all religious and secular institutions.
Lastly, I pray for a peaceful and blessed visit of Pope Frances that will result in regaining the trust of the faithful in the Church.
Shaykh Dr. Umar Al-Qadri,
Head Imam Islamic Centre of Ireland
Chair Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council