Chai Brady and Ruadhán Jones
The Church should draw up guidelines for interfaith events with the Muslim community to avoid “ambiguous and potentially misleading situations” according to an expert in interreligious dialogue.
Fr Michael O’Sullivan M.Afr., who is the current director of World Missions Ireland and has spent decades on the Middle East, said an event organised by a Dublin priest to mark the beginning of the school year which featured an Islamic prayer was “not appropriate”.
This comes after Fr Fergal McDonagh Adm. of Dolphin’s Barn/Rialto parish welcomed an Imam to say a prayer at Our Lady of Dolours Church at an event for the pupils of Loreto College Crumlin last week.
Fr McDonagh said that over 20% of the school are Muslim “so it wasn’t a Christian gathering”.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Fr O’Sullivan said: “Obviously there are Muslim girls in the school and all that but if you’re having a Christian prayer in a chapel, having a Christian prayer and a Muslim prayer together, it’s not very appropriate.
“It gives them a mixed signal particularly in an educational set up with young people. It gives the impression that it’s really all the same – that Islam and Christianity are the same.”
There are places and settings in which interfaith events should take place but “shared worship is ambiguous”, he said.
“Obviously there’s room for discussion, there’s room for dialogue… This dialogue should take place in other settings rather than a Catholic chapel where the blessed Sacrament is present, where the priest is dressed in his liturgical vestments. In such ambiguous and potentially misleading situations guidelines would surely be necessary.”
Speaking of the Imam’s prayer Fr O’Sullivan said: “It was a prayer to the prophet Mohammed and on his followers and on his family and all the rest of it and it really doesn’t have much place in a Christian worship, in a Catholic worship… it’s misplaced basically”
Fr McDonagh, speaking of the thinking behind the event, told this paper: “It was an interfaith gathering. We live in an area with one of the highest Muslim populations in the country. We live cheek by jowl, side by side – it was a mark of respect.”
He described it as “brilliant” and that “the people in the parish were delighted with it, pupils in the school were delighted with it, teachers were delighted with it, parish council happy with it, no problem”.
Asked whether the event may have been confusing for children he said: “No I don’t think so, you have to give young people far more credit than that.
“To hold that kind of attitude, you’d want to be pretty delusional.”