.- Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on Peace and Justice, has apologized for rankling brother bishops with a video making alarmist predictions about the growth of Islam in Europe.
“This was never meant to call Christians to arms. I sincerely apologize. I never meant to do this,” Cardinal Turkson told yesterday afternoon’s free discussion period of the synod on the New evangelization, according to Father Thomas Rosica.
Fr. Rosica relayed the comments at an Oct. 16 briefing for English-speaking journalists covering the synod.
Cardinal Turkson showed the seven-minute YouTube clip, entitled “Muslim Demographics,” at another free discussion period last Saturday evening. The term “free discussion” is used by the synod to mean free-wheeling and off-the-record, versus the prepared statements typical of the formal sessions.
Viewed over 13 million times on YouTube since it was anonymously uploaded in 2009, it makes questionable demographic claims about various European countries, such as, "In just 39 years France will be an Islamic republic” and that "Islam will overwhelm Christendom unless Christians recognize the demographic realities, begin reproducing again, and share the gospel with Muslims."
“I didn’t hear anybody defend the film” yesterday, Fr. Rosica said. “There were questions, and most of the concern was the facts were not right. And if you’re going to present something like this, we need a fuller picture.”
Asked if Cardinal Turkson explained why he gave the video presentation, he said no.
“He didn’t explain why he showed the film. But he did offer a serious apology for upsetting people. I think he realizes that it upset people. He didn’t say, ‘I meant to do this to stir up a discussion,’ but in fact it stirred up a discussion, and it was a lively discussion.”
The Oct. 15 afternoon free discussion period, attended by 19 bishops, featured discussions which were “not heated but animated,” Fr. Rosica said.
But the session did end “on a very positive note,” he added.
“Air needed to be cleared, there was no question, and in the beginning there were references to (the film), especially by those who are working in the area and also working with Muslims. Some of the religious bishops – Dominicans, Jesuits, and Franciscans – who are on the ground in those places have an immense amount of wisdom to bring to the discussion.”
In his capacity as the CEO of the Toronto-based Salt and Light Television, Fr. Rosica said that back when the video first appeared on YouTube, he “had people send it to us who wanted to show it on TV. I said, ‘No, I don’t want the network shut down.’ Such unfounded nonsense.”
One of the film’s disputed claims is that French Muslim women have 8.1 children compared to non-Muslim French women having 1.8. But France does not collect statistics by religion, making the claim suspect if not unprovable.
After the film’s showing, prelates from the European bishops’ conference promised to send statistics from a recent study they conducted that would correct some inaccuracies from the film.