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CCCB meeting with imams may lead to national Muslim-Catholic dialogue

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


Five imams and five Catholic bishops took part in a meeting at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops secretariat in Ottawa Feb. 14. (Rene Laprise/CCCB)

OTTAWA (CCN) — A Feb. 14 meeting with imams and bishops at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops offices may lead to an ongoing national dialogue, said Bishop Claude Champagne.

Champagne said the commission “felt the need to explore a bilateral dialogue between Catholics and Muslim imams,” and the goal of the meeting was to explore “if there’s an openness to that.”

“The climate was quite good,” he said.

The bishops did not address the Islamophobia Motion M-103 now before the House of Commons, said the Edmundston bishop, who chairs the CCCB’s Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews, and Interfaith Dialogue commission.

Instead, the meeting examined how the two religious communities could support each other and work together on projects such as the recent interfaith collaboration opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide.

“At the end of the meeting, we were in position to recommend to the executive and the Permanent Council to develop that dialogue between Catholic bishops and imams,” Champagne said.

Five bishops from the commission met for lunch and discussion with five imams from the Canadian Council of Imams. Four drove to Ottawa in a snowstorm; the fifth came from Ottawa. Next time, the bishops hope to include imams from other cities in Canada. “For us, we would like it to be a national dialogue,” Champagne said.

The meeting had been organized well before the Jan. 29 shooting at a Quebec mosque that killed six men and injured many more. It did give the bishops a chance to offer their condolences and support to the Muslim religious leaders.

Champagne said the CCCB had published a pamphlet to educate the Catholic faithful about Islam and to help them “to be careful and not to be prejudiced and not to generalize.”

The bishops began working on developing a positive relationship after 2014 terror incidents in Saint Jean sur Richelieu, Que., and Ottawa, involving converts to Islam.

The goal of the Feb. 14 meeting was to help the religious leaders get to know each other better and to discuss areas where there “could be a common commitment on questions of justice and peace in our society,” Champagne said. They also discussed how both groups represent “believers in a society where many people are saying ‘we are without religion.’ ”

The bishops and imams examined how “we could live together in peace, to be enriched by the other,” he said. “At least there was that openness to know each other.”

Though developing a national dialogue is “a financial challenge,” Champagne said the idea will be proposed at the next Permanent Council meeting in March. He stressed the February meeting was done with the support and help of the Permanent Council.

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