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Church of St-Sulpice, ParisShutterstock

PARIS (LifeSiteNews) —An urgent request to sign a petition saying “no to Muslim prayer spaces in our churches” landed in my in-box yesterday morning. It followed growing anger on social media after the photo of a sign indicating such a space was shown tacked onto a pillar of the Church of Saint-Sulpice in central Paris. The request had been forwarded by Marie-Madeleine, a friend and former Muslim, who not only converted to Catholicism many years ago but is extraordinarily active in putting other Muslims onto the road to conversion, never hesitating to speak up about her faith and her love for Jesus Christ whenever and wherever she notices souls are seeking the truth, thirsting for it. 

The same petition was circulated on the internet by a priest from the Archdiocese of Paris, Father Guy Pagès, who is a specialist of the Quran and its incoherencies, calls to violence, pagan origins, the damage it does as a false religion, and its continual blasphemies against the Most Holy Trinity and Our Lord. The author of several books exposing Islamic falsehoods, Pagès is also active in the ministry of evangelizing Muslims, of whom millions have come to France through immigration over the last 60 years. They hail mostly from North Africa, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan countries. 

No one better than Marie-Madeleine or Father Guy Pagès can say how wrong and foolhardy it is to welcome Muslim prayer into a Catholic church.  However “liberal” and “advanced,” or open and tolerant, Muslim individuals may be, at its roots Islam is a code of law, and according to that law, praying openly as a group on a portion of foreign soil makes that patch of land Islamic, claimed for Allah. 

Last Sunday, standing next to the main altar of the church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, two imams chanted the “Fatiha”, the seven first verses of the first surah of the Quran, “In the name of Allah, the entirely merciful…” They sang the words first in Arabic and then in French, each time finishing with the verse that condemns non-Muslims and shapes the way Muslims see those who do not share Islamic beliefs: “Guide us to the straight path – The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have earned [Your] anger or of those who are astray.” In the Quran, those who have earned Allah’s “anger” are the Jews; those who are “astray” are the Christians, because they did not follow the Quran’s teachings on Christ, a mere “prophet” who is – according to Islam – blasphemously presented as the Son of God by the Catholic faith.

Chanting or proclaiming the “Fatiha” is one of the most important elements of Islamic prayer; it should be recited before every prescribed prayer all through the day. With its negative references to the Jews and Christians, and its foundational nature for Muslims, who consider it to be the epitome of the Islamic creed and spirituality, it is a way of proclaiming Islam and its superiority over other religions.

The chanting of the Fatiha in a Catholic church, at the invitation of the Catholic parish in the name of interreligious dialogue, is a scandal of great proportions. The fact that the imams, who were part of a joint Christian and Islamic celebration including many ordinary faithful and children, chose precisely these verses of the Quran is highly symbolic.

The whole event sent shockwaves through the Parisian community of ex-Muslims converts to the Catholic faith.

The decision to turn part of the church of Saint-Sulpice, Paris’ largest church after Notre-Dame Cathedral, into a space for Muslim prayer was part of a celebration of the International Day of Human Fraternity set up by the UN and the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity after Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Ahmed Al-Tayeb, signed the Abu Dhabi Document three years ago, on February 4, 2019. 

In Saint-Sulpice, the event took the form of an “Islamo-Christian Encounter” last Sunday, during which all and sundry were invited to come and listen to a two-hour session of talks, songs, and music followed by drinks celebrating “Islamo-Christian Dialogue” – what the French call “the glass of friendship.” 

During the whole afternoon a space inside the church was set aside for “silence,” specifically for Muslim worship. 

The sign bore the logo of the meeting: a stylized image of the crescent moon designed to look like a veiled woman’s head, surrounded by the words: “Together with Mary.” 

Portraying Mary as a crescent moon is certainly very far off from Catholic iconography. The Mother of God is often shown standing on the crescent moon and an image of the devil, indicating her power and calling to crush evil. The crescent moon, on the other hand, is a symbol of Islam. Before Islam, it was the image of a Mesopotamian god – Sîn was male or hermaphrodite – and therefore a false god, worshipped by the Arabs in ancient times. Sîn’s memory spilled over into Islam with its lunar calendar and its many references to the moon. 

Placing “Islamo-Christian dialogue” under the sign of Mary is not new; one might even say that it is an old trick that builds on the presence of “Miriam” and her son “Îssa” the prophet in the Quran to see there a possible link between the “monotheistic” religions. 

While it is true that Muslims have a form of veneration for Miriam, and there is a similar story of the Annunciation of the “virgin birth” by the angel “Gibrîl” in the Quran, that is where the parallel ends. The Miriam of Islam is in no way seen as the Mother of the Son of God; the Quran proclaims that such an idea is “something monstrous” and that “it is not fitting for the Most Merciful to have a son.” Indeed, the very notion of the Trinity and of God being a loving Father is repugnant to Islam. Besides, the Miriam of the Quran could more easily be identified with the sister of Moses and Aaron.  

When it explained the reason for its Islamo-Christian celebration, the parish of Saint-Sulpice took some pains to underscore the differences between what the Church teaches of Mary and the story told by the Quran but added that “Christians and Muslims venerate Mary as a remarkable believer, a model of faith and confidence in God, who inspires spiritual life today.” 

It would not have been difficult to find Catholic converts from Islam to come and tell how a love of Mary had led them to renounce their Muslim beliefs and to embrace the Catholic faith. There is no lack of deeply moving stories of former Islamic believers in France who had dreams or visions of the Virgin Mary and who feel they have been led to the true Church under her maternal guidance. 

The pastoral team of Saint-Sulpice attempted to reject accusations of “syncretism” and “relativism” in its presentation, acknowledging that “we should not downplay our differences” and recalling John Paul II saying that in worshipping one God and Creator, “we can call ourselves brothers and sisters in the faith in one only God.” It added that “Muslim radicalism” and “persecution of Christians” are real, but that these should be fought by “works of cooperation” in order to “combat all forms of fanaticism.” 

But remember that this all took place in a church, a place of worship of the true God where Jesus Christ is truly present in the Holy Eucharist, where no worship of other, false gods may take place. As for the priests, academics, performers, and leaders of charitable associations of diverse denominations, their objective was not to bring Muslims to Christ but to create “feel-good” convergence, from “preparing your mixed marriage” to “sharing our spiritualities.” Differences of religion were presented as “riches,” while the evil to be fought was identified as “fixations on identity.” 

Unsurprisingly, UNESCO was one of the patrons of the meeting, and texts were read both from the Bible and the Quran, followed by silence and prayers by all. 

A highlight of the afternoon was the joint singing of a song by a Muslim-Catholic youth choir who stood in front of the main altar of Saint-Sulpice wearing pseudo-liturgical stoles. 

According to Canon 1210 of Canon Law, a sacred place such as a church is “designated for divine worship or for the burial of the faithful by a dedication or a blessing which the liturgical books prescribe for this purpose.”  

It adds: “Only those things which serve the exercise or promotion of worship, piety, or religion are permitted in a sacred place; anything not consonant with the holiness of the place is forbidden.” 

And this doesn’t mean “any” religion. 

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Jeanne Smits has worked as a journalist in France since 1987 after obtaining a Master of Arts in Law. She formerly directed the French daily Présent and was editor-in-chief of an all-internet French-speaking news site called She writes regularly for a number of Catholic journals (Monde & vie, L’Homme nouveau, Reconquête…) and runs a personal pro-life blog. In addition, she is often invited to radio and TV shows on alternative media. She is vice-president of the Christian and French defense association “AGRIF.” She is the French translator of The Dictator Pope by Henry Sire and Christus Vincit by Bishop Schneider, and recently contributed to the Bref examen critique de la communion dans la main about Communion in the hand. She is married and has three children, and lives near Paris.