We must seriously look at how Muslims interpret the Koran, Archbishop Léonard has said

Readers of this magazine will be familiar with the figure of the retired Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, who served the diocese of Malines-Brussels for five years until very recently. Léonard inherited the charge from the controversial Cardinal Danneels, and though he only had five years in post, he made a considerable contribution in a diocese where the Church is in an advanced state of decay. This article here is worth reading, and tells us that Léonard’s term of office saw an astonishing jump in the number of seminarians, which is always a sign of the success or otherwise of a bishop’s ministry.

The Church Militant article draws upon an interview that Archbishop Léonard recently gave to the French Catholic magazine Famille Chrétienne, which is only available in French, but is well worth reading if you can, for it reflects the wisdom and courage of this great Archbishop. Here is a little bit of it that I found of great interest, which deals with the question of terrorism. I reproduce the original French, and follow it with my schoolboy translation:

La France a été lourdement marquée cette année par plusieurs attentats meurtriers. Face à cette grande épreuve, quelle doit être l’attitude des catholiques?

Hélas, je pense que ce n’est qu’un début et que ce que l’on vient de vivre à Paris laisse présager d’autres épreuves semblables. Préparons-nous à les vivre, sans oublier que ce que nous avons vécu ces derniers temps, les habitants d’autres pays dans le monde le vivent quotidiennement.

Comment réagir face à cette épreuve ? En prenant des mesures de sécurité bien sûr, mais surtout en nous contraignant à réfléchir en profondeur sur la manière dont l’Église et nos sociétés doivent engager le dialogue avec les musulmans. Et cela dans l’intérêt des deux parties.

Nous allons devoir vivre un dialogue sérieux sur la manière dont les musulmans interprètent les versets du Coran les plus violents, sur la place qu’ils accordent à la liberté de conscience et sur la possibilité de se marier avec des personnes d’autres confessions. Si nous ne vivons pas un tel dialogue, nous risquons d’aboutir à un choc des civilisations, et là ce serait dramatique.

Plusieurs pays ont décidé d’intervenir en Irak et en Syrie contre Daech. C’est le cas de la France et de la Belgique. Le pape a évoqué l’idée d’une troisième guerre mondiale en morceaux. L’Église doit-elle soutenir cette intervention militaire ?

Une intervention militaire est toujours très complexe, ambiguë, et provoque souvent plus de mal que de bien. Dans le cas de l’Irak en 2003, jamais le pape Jean-Paul II n’a approuvé les attaques américaines, ni le blocus économique. Sa position était très claire.

Il n’y aura de bénédiction accordée à une entreprise militaire que s’il s’agit d’une guerre juste, à savoir protéger des populations victimes d’une agression injuste.

In English:

France has been hit hard this year by several terrorist attacks. What should the attitude of Catholics be in the face of this trial?

Alas, I think this is just the beginning, and what happened in Paris is a sign of more attacks to come. We should get ready to face them, without forgetting what we have lived through recently, and what the inhabitants of other countries live through every day. How to react to these attacks? Obviously by taking security measures, but more importantly by reflecting on how the Church and society ought to approach dialogue with Muslims. And that is both in their interest and ours. We must have a serious dialogue on the way in which Muslims interpret the most violent verses of the Koran, on the place they give to liberty of conscience and freedom to marry people of other religions. If we do not have such dialogue, then we risk a clash of civilizations, which would be bad news.

Several countries, including France and Belgium, have decided to intervene in Iraq against ISIS. The Pope has spoken of a piecemeal Third World War. Should the Church support military intervention?

Military intervention is always complex and difficult, and often does more harm than good. In the case of Iraq back in 2003, John Paul II approved neither the American invasion nor the economic sanctions. His position was very clear. There will be no blessing given to any military enterprise unless it is a matter of a just war, designed to protects victimized civilians from unjust aggression.

These words, particularly the words about the need for dialogue on Koranic interpretation, are the best I have heard from any high ecclesiastic in recent years. To my mind, Archbishop Léonard goes to the heart of the matter. He provides clarity and offers leadership in a very important matter. It is a pity that he is now in retirement, and it is incredible to me that he has not been made a cardinal.

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