In a blunt statement that attracted some attention in Europe,1 Giuseppe Germano Bernardini, a 72-year-old Italian who is archbishop of Izmir, Turkey, wrote the Synod of European Bishops on October 13, 1999, that Muslims have a "clear program of expansion and re-conquest" of Europe. He then called on the pope to convene a special Vatican meeting to find a common strategy toward Muslims living in Christian countries. This statement raised eyebrows because it so starkly contradicts the official church position.—The Editors
I have been living for the past forty-two years in Turkey, a country 99.9 percent Muslim, and I am the Archbishop of Izmir—Asia Minor—for the past sixteen years. The theme of my intervention is therefore obvious: the problem of Islam in Europe today and in the future ... .
My intervention is to make a humble request of the Holy Father, above all. To be brief and clear, first I will mention three cases that, due to their provenance, I believe to be true.
1. During an official meeting on Islamic-Christian dialogue, an authoritative Muslim person, speaking to the Christians participating, at one point said very calmly and assuredly: "Thanks to your democratic laws we will invade you; thanks to our religious laws we will dominate you."
This is to be believed because the "dominion" has already begun with the "petrol-dollars," used not to create work in the poor North African or Middle Eastern countries, but to build mosques and cultural centers in Christian countries with Islamic immigration, including Rome, the center of Christianity. How can we ignore in all of this a clear program of expansion and re-conquest?
2. During another Islamic-Christian meeting, always organized by Christians, a Christian participant publicly asked the Muslims present why they did not organize at least once a meeting of this kind. The Muslim authority present answered the following words: "Why should we? You have nothing to teach us and we have nothing to learn."
A dialogue among deaf persons? It is a fact that terms such as "dialogue," "justice," "reciprocity," or concepts such as "rights of man," "democracy," have a completely different meaning for the Muslim than for us. But I believe this to be recognized and admitted by all, by now.
3. In a Catholic monastery in Jerusalem there was and perhaps still is a Muslim Arab servant. An honest and gentle person, he was respected greatly by the religious who in turn were respected by him. One day, he sadly told them: "Our chiefs have met and have decided that all the ‘infidels' must be killed, but do not fear because I will kill you without making you suffer."
We are all aware that we must distinguish between the fanatic and violent minority from the tranquil and honest majority, but this, at an order given in the name of Allah or the Qur'an, will always march compact and without hesitations. Anyway, history teaches us that the secure minorities always manage to impose themselves over the renouncing and silent majority.
It would be naive to underestimate or, worse yet, smile on the three cases I have referred to; I feel that their dramatic teaching must be reflected upon.
This is not pessimism on my part, despite the appearance. The Christian cannot be pessimistic because Christ is Risen and Alive; He is God, as opposed to all other prophets or those calling themselves such. The final victory will be Christ's, but God's times may be long, and often are. He is patient and waits for the conversion of sinners: in the meantime He invites the Church to organize herself and to work to quicken the coming of His Kingdom.
And now I would like to make a serious proposal to the Holy Father: to organize as soon as possible, if not a Synod, at least a Symposium of Bishops and operators in the pastoral ministry for immigrants, with particular reference to the Islamic ones, widening the scope to the Reformed and Orthodox Churches ... .
The symposium could be useful to deepen in a collegial way the problem of the Islamic people in Christian countries, and thus find a common strategy to face it and resolve it in a Christian and objective way. We must agree on the principles, even if their applications will vary depending on the places and the persons. Nothing is worse than disagreement on principles!
I end this exhortation, suggested to me by experience: do not allow the Muslim to ever use a Catholic Church for their cult, because this would be, in their eyes, the certain proof of our apostasy.
1 For example, see Philip Pullella, "Bishop at Vatican synod in broadside against Islam," Reuters, Oct. 13., 1999, and "Bishop: Islam Expanding Conquests," Associated Press, Oct. 13, 1999.