Days after Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York offered to moderate discussions in the heated debate over a planned mosque near Ground Zero in New York City, Gov. David Paterson met with the prelate on Tuesday for a “productive conversation,” according to a spokesman for the governor.
The proposed mosque and Islamic center near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have drawn numerous criticisms from citizens across the U.S. as well as from politicians of both parties. President Obama added to the national debate on Aug. 13 when he appeared to condone the planned complex, known as Park51, in remarks to Muslims at the White House during a Ramadan celebration.
Commenting briefly to reporters during an impromptu news conference on Aug. 18 at a Catholic facility in Manhattan for homeless youth, the archbishop said “My major prayer is that what has turned into somewhat of a divisive issue might develop into an occasion of very civil, rational, loving, respectful discussion.” Archbishop Dolan then praised both New York Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson for their contributions to the debate, though both are on different sides of the issue.
Bloomberg supports the plans for the mosque and Islamic center, and according to ABC News, has said it would be a "sad day" if the project is canceled. Governor Paterson, however, has offered to hold discussions with the imam and mosque developers in order to find another suitable location.
After reports from the Associated Press and other media outlets announced a planned meeting between Gov. Paterson and Archbishop Dolan on Aug. 24, CNA contacted the Archdiocese of New York for information on the meeting but none was forthcoming.
At the New York governor's office, Morgan Hook, director of communications, confirmed that the meeting took place on Tuesday.
“Yesterday, Governor Paterson met with Archbishop Timothy Dolan to discuss a variety of topics, including the proposed building of an Islamic community center near the World Trade Center site,” Hook said in an e-mail to CNA. “The Governor and the Archbishop had a very productive conversation and will continue to do everything in their power to facilitate and promote a positive public dialogue that unites New Yorkers.”
“Both the Governor and Archbishop agreed that fostering this respectful dialogue could be achieved by involving the leaders of other faiths,” Hook added. “As the Governor has said, he fully supports the rights of the Park51 developers and he will only engage in a discussion of relocating the proposed site if the developers seek the Governor's assistance in this matter.”