According to Catholic World News, Muslim activists have petitioned the Malaysian government to expel Archbishop Joseph Marino, the recently arrived and first ever resident Vatican diplomat (Papal Nuncio) the Asian nation has ever had.
His crime? Publicly affirming the right of Christians to use the word “Allah” in reference to God.
I must admit, upon hearing about the controversy, I initially thought that this was going to be another story about interreligious dialogue gone wild, but it’s really not.
The Arabic word “Allah” predates Islam by many centuries and is legitimately used in the liturgies of certain Catholic rites. In other words, this ancient name employed by Muhammad is in no way the intellectual property of the Muslims.
The activists, however, are approaching this matter on purely theological grounds, insisting that the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims is blasphemous.
Even in their error, these Muslims seem to be thinking much more clearly than most Catholics do on at least one point; namely, as it relates to the simple fact that the “Allah” of Islam is not to be confused with the one true God worshipped by Catholics; i.e., they most certainly are not one and the same.
In any event, that’s not to say that the new Papal Nuncio to Malaysia isn’t intent on writing his own chapter in the post-conciliar diary of interreligious madness.
In a recent article in the Malaysian Insider, Archbishop Marino made clear his role in what he perceives to be the mission of the Church as it relates to non-Catholics, beginning with the idea that conversions are a "great mystery" since the attraction differs from person to person.
"If we are going to respect human dignity, we have to respect the conscience of the person in seeking God, it is a basic fundamental human right that needs to be respected and society needs to give space to all human beings in a pluralistic society," he said.
According to the Insider, Archbishop Marino said that he will draw on his experience as Apostolic Nuncio in Bangladesh wherein “the first thing he learnt there was the beauty of Islam.”
"It is indeed a religion of peace and harmony and its spiritual components of seeking God is profound. That was the joy that I had in my deep contact with Islam in a country that is predominantly Muslim. They also have great respect for Christians and other religions, and there is a real desire to have this true sense of conviviality," he said.
So, just how peaceful and harmonious is the practice of Islam in Bangladesh?
According to a special report, Christian Persecution Increases amid Protests in Bangladesh, issued by the International Christian Concern on July 2, 2013:
On June 5, Muslim extremists entered the Tumilia mission, a Catholic compound, and physically attacked a priest, Father Abel, as he came out of his room. International Christian Concern (ICC) sources confirmed that it was targeted persecution on the Christians by a group of Islamists.
On June 6, the same group of Islamists attacked an entire village in Dinajpur, in northern Bangladesh. As Christians fled and sought shelter in a Catholic Church’s mission compound, a mob of more than 100 Muslims, armed with local weapons, stormed in and beat up the priest and seminary students.
“They broke the main gate, destroyed the barb wire fence and entered the compound. They beat up Father Uzzal, seminarians and destroyed some parts of the building...vandalized and looted everything,” according to an ICC source, who also said, “The Muslims wait for any excuse to attack the religious minorities.”
The ICC report goes on to say that the situation in Bangladesh is nothing new, adding, “The majority of discrimination against Bangladeshi Christians comes from sections of Muslims who beat them, extort money from them, deny them access to public water wells...”
So much for peace and harmony.
What does Archbishop Marino consider necessary in order to ensure that Catholics in Malaysia fare better than they did at his previous post?
According to the Malaysian Insider, “The diplomat said the only way to stop deterioration in race relations in Malaysia is through dialogue, saying it would work out if people sat down and talked.”
"And inter-religious dialogue [has] nothing to do with conversion,” the Nuncio stressed. “We are not there to covert one another, we are children of God coming together to speak about our different experiences with God."
With this being the prelate’s position, every well-formed Catholic now knows exactly how this chapter will ultimately be written since true peace is attainable, not by chit-chatting over Arabian coffee with those who consider beating and killing Christians an authentic “experience with God;” but rather – if you’ll pardon such an old fashioned idea as this - in calling them to conversion to the only Church established by the Prince of Peace and King of kings, Jesus Christ.
Let it be said, in fairness, that Archbishop Marino isn’t exactly swimming against the post-conciliar tide here; rather, he is simply following the inherently flawed “can’t-we-all-just-get-along” blueprint that emerged from Vatican Council II.
Consider, for instance, that Unitatis Redintegratio, the Decree on Ecumenism, and Nostra Aetate, the Decree on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, together call for “dialogue” no less than fourteen times, while mentioning “conversion,” the actual mission of the Church, a combined total of precisely zero times.
And that, my friends, is how we end up with shepherds who can manage no more than to tiptoe through the Islamic tulips, spinning tales about make-believe interreligious peace and harmony, while never daring to even suggest the need for conversion.
Welcome to Malaysia, Your Excellency, and welcome to the New Springtime, your Catholic faithful.
Author and speaker Louie Verrecchio was a columnist for Catholic News Agency from April 2009 to 2013. His work, which includes Year of Faith resources like the Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II Faith Formation Series, has been endorsed by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia; Bishop Emeritus Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster, England; Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, IA, USA and others. For more information please visit: www.harvestingthefruit.com