View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Catholic -Muslim accord shows what can be done

Catholics, Muslims celebrate connections
Alan MorrellStaff writer ,
Democrat and Chronicle

(May 7, 2005) — Area Catholics and Muslims celebrated together Friday night at Sacred Heart Cathedral in commemoration of their landmark alliance.

"Look around," said J. Patrick O'Connor, a diocesan representative of the Christian-Muslim Commission, to the audience of about 200 people. "How many places in the world could ever do what we're doing now, here?"

Friday's event was the second anniversary of the signing of the Muslim Catholic Agreement of Understanding and Cooperation. It is thought to be the only such agreement signed by Muslims and Catholics in the nation.

The guest speakers were Dr. Sayyid Syeed, secretary general and CEO of the Islamic Society of North America; and the Rev. Francis Tiso, associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They spoke of mutual respect, cooperation and dignity. They embraced, to loud applause, after their speeches.

"There is not anything inherent in the religions that would keep them apart," said Syeed, who is based in Indianapolis. "We want people to go out and embrace others. ... Our religion says you should go out and invite people of the Book — the Bible — and find common ground."

Tiso spoke about listening to and respecting the doctrines of others, and uniting people of faith to speak out against unjust wars and terrorism.

"I hope people will feel motivated at the local levels to undertake projects," said Tiso, who studied at Cornell University and now is a priest of the Diocese of Isernia-Venafro in Italy.

"We have to help our country do what is right, examine our own conscience and be powerful in motivating people to be peacemakers."

Bishop Matthew Clark said the collaboration — particularly Friday's event — has renewed his spirit.

"Progress is possible and has been made," he said. "There is hope for the future."

This kind of outreach is typical of Bishop Clark.

He has been a bright light in this diocese when it comes to the roles of the laity and women in the Catholic Church, outreach to gays and lesbians, and support for people like Father Charles Curran (a priest of this diocese). He also tried to deal in a pastoral way with Father James Callan and his breakaway congregation.

As a result, Bishop Clark has had a few “conversations” with then-Cardinal Ratzinger over the years – though, to his credit, he has never said how many, or what exactly was said.

Then again, this has been typical of this diocese. The founding Bishop, Bernard McQuaid, left Vatican I early rather than vote on papal infallibility, with which he had disagreed during council discussions.

And Archbishop Fulton Sheen, that “patron saint“ of traditionalists, when he was Bishop of Rochester from 1966-69, set out to implement Vatican II when he was appointed here. He created a priests’ council and actually consulted them on some decisions, hired lay people to work in diocesan administration, hired a woman to teach at the diocesan seminary, and shocked a lot of people by speaking in a synagogue.

Bishop Clark is to be applauded.

And given the temper of the times, and the Church’s prophetic role, it’s a shame if this is indeed the only such agreement in the nation.


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