Christian clergy in Italy start welcoming Islam in church

Christian clergy in Italy and Europe are starting to welcome Islam in church services, with some including Islamic songs and readings from the Koran during the mass.

(REUTERS / Alessandro Bianchi)Santa Croce Church is seen in Florence February 26, 2010.

Just a week after Islamist terrorists killed people at the headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, the Church Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence started playing Islamic songs along with Christian music. This is the first time in over 700 years that the so-called "interfaith initiative," which Gatestone Institute says is a growing trend, was implemented in Florence's Cathedral.

In the parish of Saints Joachim and Anne in Potenza in the south of Italy, Fr. Franco Corbo had the Virgin Mary wear a Muslim burqa for a Christmas nativity scene to promote "dialogue among religions." However, the move sparked rage among the worshippers. Fr. Sante Braggie, a priest in the city of Cremona, removed the Christmas nativity scene at a local cemetery to avoid offending Muslims.

"A small corner of the cemetery is reserved for Muslim graves," said Fr. Braggie. "A crib positioned within sight of them could be seen as a lack of respect for followers of other faiths, hurt the sensibilities of Muslims, as well as Indians and even atheists."

The church of St. Martin in Rebbio and Church of Santa Maria Trastevere in Rome have also started reading a verse of the Koran from the altar. In Rozano, headmaster Marco Parma canceled the Christmas carol concert of Garofani school to also avoid offending anyone.

In 2014, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, a senior Church of England bishop, suggested starting Prince Charles' coronation service with a reading from the Koran. He said the move would make the Muslims feel more welcome in the United Kingdom, but critics opposed the idea of the Church rejecting its own traditions, the Daily Mail reports.

While the abovementioned gestures appear to have good interfaith intentions, the Gatestone Institute says the Christian Church has everything to lose while the Muslims have everything to gain in it. Instead of allowing Muslims to be part of Christian church services to be more accommodating, the publication suggested conducting dialogues with Islamic communities that would hinge on the principle of reciprocity.

For example, Christians would be allowed to build churches in the Middle East if Muslims are allowed to put up mosques in Europe. Otherwise, the well-intended interfaith gestures could lead to suggestions of taking down Christian paintings from inside churches to avoid offending Muslims.