French Muslims attend Mass today

As you perhaps heard, Muslims across France are attending Sunday Mass today to express solidarity with the Catholic priest who was recently slain.

I don’t claim to know much about the range of positions within Islam about their attendance at Christian worship. A quick google search shows that there are Muslim voices which strongly object to it. But there also are Muslim leaders and faithful who approve of the possibility and are doing so at this time.

This reminds me not to stereotype all Muslims based on their most narrow representatives.

It also reminds me that some Muslims are more open to interreligious encounter with Catholics than some Catholics are with Muslims. Whenever a pope visits a mosque, the internet lights up with Catholic voices objecting to it – and this is a matter simply of being in a mosque, not of attending or participating in Muslim prayer.

Imagine if there were an organized movement for Catholics to attend Muslim prayer, and that some Catholic priests and bishops supported it. I’m sure many Catholics would approve, but there would also be strong objections.

This is not a question of interreligious prayer (which is a delicate question), but of interreligious encounter. (We do not know whether some choose to participate inwardly in the worship of the other religious tradition.) It is simply being present as a sign of solidarity.

I’m very moved by the example of these Muslims, and grateful for their witness.

 

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8 comments

  1. In the cathedral of Versailles, this morning at Mass, not only was there a local official representative of Muslims and a number of Muslim adults in attendance, but there was also a group of Muslim boy scouts and girl guides with their leaders.

  2. My main concern with visiting a mosque during ritual prayer would be that I am so ignorant, I would be a distraction for those actually trying to pray. Perhaps many Muslims would feel the same way attending Mass, although if you follow any kind of printed guide, it would help you know when to stand, kneel, etc. In addition – I would be leery about attending strictly to show solidarity, which seems to me to be arrogant on my part (note that I don’t get that impression from the Muslims attending Mass, however, so perhaps that is misguided). I would, however, be interested on an academic level, and to inform myself of another tradition. On a musical level, too, it would be informative, because they have no concept of “art music” at all, with all the music integrally tied to prayer. That concept is also the historical root of Christian worship, but corrupted by a long Western tradition of art for art’s sake and music deposited into the rite, rather than being a part of it. The whole “sing the Mass” movement is trying to return to those roots. Sorry if I diverted from the main point of the post, but I was trying to show how informing ourselves of other traditions can help us to understand our own better.

  3. Individual French Muslims and Muslim communities who have attended Mass this Sunday have shown that a beautiful unity with Christians as brothers and sisters in humanity. Yet, I fear that the many French Muslims, not all of whom are even observant, will soon go through very difficult times. Perhaps even persecution will take place. Persecution need not be the Inquisition. Covert social ostracization as well as the denial of civil rights can be non-physically-violent means to intimidate others.

    Tangentially, one of the significant perils of readmitting the SSPX as an integral body is the schismatic association’s sometime ties with French far-right groups such as the Front National. Now is not the time for the Church (as the Body of Christ and as an institution) to retrench by tacitly endorsing hatred. It’s time to explicitly decry any discrimination or even violence perpetuated by Christians against Muslims. This is, certainly, a very tall order to fulfill. I do not see any other just course. I will pray for the fortitude of my French brothers and sisters in Christ.

    1. @Jordan Zarembo:
      I have a French Muslim friend who hails from the South of France.
      Believe me, they have been going through very hard times for decades already both from officialdom and from fellow citizens.

  4. I was moved by a photo the diocese of Nancy and Toul posted today, of Catholic sisters (in habit) and Muslim women (most of them wearing the hijab) together at a church (I assume following a Mass that the Muslim women had attended; at least that was the context of the remainder of the photos).
    Two groups of women of faith, wearing head coverings — and that in a country that gives Muslim women a hard time about veiling in public. Almost makes me want to don a veil for worship…

  5. As a denomination guided by constant symbol and movement…coming to Mass today in France and seeing Muslim men and women there to recognize quietly the devastating events of their country by a sign of solidarity would bring me to tears. What a generous and healing act. I am deeply moved by this act.

  6. It is what the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue referred to as ‘the dialogue of religious experience’ (Dialogue and Mission, 1984. n.35). A profound act of solidarity.

  7. I believe that there were Muslims attending mass this past weekend in many parts of Italy too for this same reason. A beautiful gesture from our brothers and sisters in Abraham.

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