February 2019 Allocutio

By Fr. Liam O’Cuiv

Legionary outreach to Moslems as brothers and sisters

In the year 1219 St. Francis of Assisi met Malek al-Kamil, the sultan of Egypt, bringing friendship and peace at a time of conflict. Now 800 years later another Francis, our Holy Father, has met Ahmed al-Tayeb Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi where they jointly signed a document “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” on Monday 4th February.

Pope Francis on his return to Rome stated that his trip to the United Arab Emirates together with his meeting with the Grand Imam in Egypt in 2017 have written “a new page in the history of dialogue between Christianity and Islam” and in the commitment to promoting peace in the world on the basis of human brotherhood.

Central to the Document on Human Fraternity is the important place of faith in leading us to see in others our brothers and sisters. This is especially so in our dialogue with Muslims with whom we share a faith in the One God, whom we as Christians address as Father. The Declaration of Vatican II Nostra Aetate on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions states, “we cannot truly pray to God the Father of all if we treat any people as other than brothers and sisters, for all are created in God’s image”. (5)

The Pope and the Grand Imam on behalf of the Catholic Church and Al-Azhar respectively, have pledged to convey this document to persons of religion all over the world and to make known the principles contained in this Declaration at all regional and international levels. Pope Francis encourages us to read and study this document.

While this recent common statement is indeed ground-breaking in the dialogue between Christianity and Islam, and something that is to be welcomed in a world of so much conflict, it cannot of its nature give full expression to our understanding of dialogue as Catholic Christians.

The Legion of Mary always seeks to be at one with the Church’s thinking at any time. As legionaries, we know that our founder, Frank Duff, had a deep interest in Islam out of his great desire to spread the good news of the Gospel to all. Because of today’s migration of peoples, throughout the world members of the Legion of Mary may find themselves in close proximity to many of the world’s 1.6 million Muslims. We are called to bring the Gospel to all. In our increasingly secular world, we can mirror the true love of God for our Islamic brothers and sisters.

I can only encourage people to re-read the masterly and complete Allocutio on “The Legion of Mary and Islam” given four years ago this month by Fr. Bede McGregor, O.P. It clearly outlines the words of Vatican II in relation to Non-Christian Religions and to the Moslems on whom the Church looks with esteem in particular. The Church seeks to be open as “a Light to the Nations” in dialogue with all people.

The Allocutio then examines the record of the Legion of Mary in relation to Islam, the writings of Frank Duff and of the Handbook and outlines the principal convictions contained in them: Firstly, bringing the Gospel to all. Secondly, sharing the Good News of God’s love in creating them and explaining the Cross as the great sign that the Muslim as indeed every person of whatever faith or circumstance, is infinitely important to God. Thirdly the importance of Mary in the Holy Koran, who for Frank Duff “seemed to represent common ground capable of fruitful development both in the order of grace and psychology.”

Pope Francis speaks of what he calls “the courage of otherness” which involves the full recognition of the other and his or her freedom and says:

“In all this, prayer is essential: while sincerely intended prayer incarnates the courage of otherness in regard to God, it also purifies the heart from turning in on itself. Prayer of the heart restores fraternity. Consequently, “as for the future of inter-religious dialogue, the first thing we have to do is pray and pray for one another: we are brothers and sisters! Without the Lord, nothing is possible; with him, everything becomes so!”

May we continue to support all those caught up in conflict, and especially Christians in Moslem lands with our prayers. May Mary, Queen of Angels intercede for our Muslim brothers and sisters and all our legionaries who live and work among them. Amen.