Pope Francis sends gifts to mosque to show ‘esteem and affection to the Muslim community’
PORT-LOUIS, Mauritius, October 1, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Maurice Piat, Bishop of Port-Louis, Mauritius, presented two gifts to a local mosque on behalf of Pope Francis last week, one a copy of the controversial Abu-Dhabi statement which claims that a diversity of religions is willed by God.
Piat went to the Jummah Mosque on September 24 to present Nissar Ramtoolah, president of the mosque, with the two gifts from Pope Francis, according to a translated report from the Diocese of Port-Louis.
Photos of the exchange show the cardinal dressed as a layman all in white.
The diocese’s report said the pope was touched by the gesture of brotherhood that the Jummah Mosque made for him during his recent apostolic visit to Mauritius, which was sending of a bouquet of flowers to Port Louis diocese when he was there.
The pope “also wanted to show his esteem and affection for the Muslim community,” according to the report.
Francis visited the nations of Madagascar, Mozambique, and Mauritius earlier this month. Mauritius is an island country in the Indian Ocean, located off the eastern coast of Africa.
Francis offered Ramtoolah a memorial medal created for his recent papal trip to Africa, and also the copy of the problematic Abu Dhabi statement, which says in part that the “diversity of religions” is “willed by God.”
The pope signed the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” with Ahmad el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque in Egypt, during an interreligious meeting in Abu Dhabi in February.
The statement has continued to receive criticism in the months following its release for the assertion that God willed the diversity of religions, which many say is in conflict with the Catholic faith.
Pope Francis has made repeated affirming statements about Islam, and has also been dismissive of Islamist violence. He ignited controversy in 2016 when he likened Islamic violence to individual violent acts committed by some Catholics.
Asked by a journalist on the papal plane in August of that year why he never spoke about Islamic violence, the question coming in the wake of the brutal murder of French priest Father Jacques Hamel – who was beheaded in the name of Islam as he celebrated Mass, the Pope said he didn’t like to speak about Islamic violence.
“I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence,” Francis said, “because every day, when I browse the newspapers, I see violence, here in Italy … this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law … and these are baptized Catholics! There are violent Catholics! If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence.”
A group of Muslims who had converted to the Catholic faith wrote an open letter to Francis in December 2017 questioning, “If Islam is a good religion in itself, as you seem to teach, why did we become Catholic?”
“Do not your words question the soundness of the choice we made at the risk of our lives?” the converts asked in the letter.
Jummah Mosque’s Ramtoolllah and several of his associates received Cardinal Piat and the gifts from Francis “very cordially,” last week, the Port-Louis diocese report said. “They exchanged [gifts] around a cup of tea and some cakes.”
Pope Francis appointed Piat as a cardinal in November 2016, in the same consistory that created Chicago Cardinal Blasé Cupich, New Jersey Cardinal Joseph Tobin and Cardinal Kevin Farrell.
Piat, as president of the Mauritius Episcopal Conference, was named an attendee of the October 2015 Ordinary Synod on the Family.