Pope Francis Hails Election Of Muslim As Mayor Of London

Sadiq Khan during the signing ceremony for the newly elected Mayor of London, in Southwark Cathedral, the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Southwark

The election of a Muslim as London mayor ‘illustrates the need for Europe to rediscover its capacity to integrate’, the Pope told La Croix

Pope Francis has hailed the election of London’s first Muslim mayor in a wide-ranging interview with a French newspaper.

Discussing the migrant crisis with French daily La Croix, Pope Francis said “the worst form of welcome” for migrants is “to ‘ghettoise’ them”.

“On the contrary, it’s necessary to integrate them,” the Pope said.

“In Brussels, the terrorists were Belgians, children of migrants, but they grew up in a ghetto. In London, the new mayor (Sadiq Khan) took his oath of office in a cathedral and will undoubtedly meet the Queen. This illustrates the need for Europe to rediscover its capacity to integrate.”

Francis gave the one-hour interview to two La Croix’s journalists at his residence in the Vatican on May 9. The Pope was speaking in Italian. The daily said the Vatican read the piece before it was published.

Asked whether he thought a fear of Islam fuelled “the fear of accepting migrants”, the Pope said he didn’t think that “there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam.”

“It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest,” the Pope said.

“In the face of Islamic terrorism, it would therefore be better to question ourselves about the way in an overly Western model of democracy has been exported to countries such as Iraq, where a strong government previously existed. Or in Libya, where a tribal structure exists.”

The Pope also discussed the separation of Church and State, saying “states must be secular, Confessional states end badly,” but added such separation must be “accompanied by a solid law guaranteeing religious freedom”.

Responding to question about how should Catholics should respond to issues such as euthanasia and same-sex marriage in a secular society, the Pope said that “once a law has been adopted, the state must also respect people’s consciences”.

Pope Francis prays during the opening session of the CEI, Italian Episcopal Conference, at the Vatican, Monday, May 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis prays during the opening session of the CEI, Italian Episcopal Conference, at the Vatican, Monday, May 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

“The right to conscientious objection must be recognized within each legal structure because it is a human right,” he said.

In reference to the Pope’s meeting with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior-general of the SSPX, in April, Francis was asked whether the re-integration of the SSPX into the Church was being considered.

The Pope told La Croix that the SSPX “love the Church” and “Bishop Fellay is a man with whom one can dialogue”.

“That is not the case for other elements who are a little strange, such as Bishop Williamson or others who have been radicalized. Leaving this aside, I believe, as I said in Argentina, that they are Catholics on the way to full communion,” he said.

Francis added it will be necessary to “establish a fundamental agreement” with the SSPX and that “we will advance slowly and patiently”.

When asked how the extraordinary synod on the family that took place in October 2014 and last October’s ordinary synod had changed the Church, the Pope said, “I think that we all came out of the various processes different from the way that we entered, including me.”

“In the post-synodal exhortation (Amoris Laetitia), I sought to respect the synod to the maximum. You won’t find canonical prescriptions there about what one may or may not do,” he said.

“The Second Vatican Council set out an ideal of synodal and episcopal communion. This still needs to be developed, including at parish level, with respect to what is required. There are parishes that still do not have a pastoral council, nor a council for economic affairs, even though these are obligations under canon law. Synodality is also relevant at this level.”

In the interview, Francis also voiced support for a French cardinal who has faced allegations of covering up cases of paedophile priests in his Lyon parish, saying he shouldn’t resign.

The Pope said that a resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin “would be a mistake, an imprudence.”

“Based on the information I have, I think in Lyon, Cardinal Barbarin has taken the necessary measures and has taken things well in hand,” the Pope said. “He is a brave and creative man, a missionary.”

Francis said “we must now wait for the result of the proceedings before the civil courts,” but resigning now “would amount to admitting guilt.”

Cardinal Barbarin, one of the highest ranking officials in the French Catholic Church, has been targeted by two investigations for not reporting cases of child abuses by priests to judicial authorities. The cardinal has denied any cover-ups, but acknowledged “some mistakes in handling and appointing some priests” last month. Other Church officials have been also investigated.

In the interview, Francis said that regarding cases of paedophile priests in general, for the Church, “there can be no prescription” and that “tolerance must be zero.”

“Through these abuses, a priest, who is designed to drive a child to God, is destroying him. He spreads evil, resentment, pain,” the Pope said.