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Religion and Society

Andrea Pacini (editor), Chiesa e Islam in Italia. Esperienze e prospettive di dialogo

Martino Diez

Andrea Pacin

 

i (editor), Chiesa e Islam in Italia. Esperienze e prospettive di dialogo (Church and Islam in Italy. Experiences and Perspectives of Dialogue

 

), Paoline, 2008

 

Perhaps not even the editor of this book realised how prophetic the juxtaposition of a white minaret to the pinnacles of Milan's Duomo would be. A few months after its publication, a questionable prayer-demonstration was held in Milan's Piazza Duomo which further focused media attention on the presence of Muslims in Italy, showing, if that was still necessary, how topical the issue is.

 

This book stands out among recent publications for two reasons. First, its contributors have been involved in relations with Muslim believers for many years. Second, it specifically focuses on the relationship between the Catholic Church and Islam.

 

Given this approach, a first part titled Islam e società (Islam and Society

 

) deals with the main sociological data about Muslims in Italy. Andrea Pacini draws a very clear overall picture of internal changes in the Muslim community, focusing especially on the younger generations. Silvio Ferrari and Chantal Saint-Blancat look instead at Muslims' relations to established authorities and local society. Especially surprising and well-documented is the analysis by Silvia Scaranari Introvigne of Turin's Muslim community. Even though most mosques in Piedmont's capital are run by representatives of traditional or political Islam, only 5 per cent of the city's Muslim population attends Friday prayers in a mosque; a percentage that rises to 12 per cent during Ramadan.

 

In the second part, the focus shifts to the Catholic Church. Following a study of the nature, methods and goals of interfaith dialogue by Miguel Ayuso, chairman of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, Giuliano Zatti, who runs the Servizio Diocesano per le relazioni cristiano-islamiche (Diocesan Service for Christian-Islamic Relations

 

) of the Padua Diocese, carefully presents documents and initiatives by the Italian Church with regards to the Muslim presence in Italy. The relationship between Muslims and Church areas is developed with many concrete observations by Augusto Tino Negri, director of Turin's Centro Peirone. Barbara Ghiringhelli provides invaluable data about mixed marriages in the Milan Diocese, drawing on her experience with the Consultorio per le Famiglie interetniche (Advisory Bureau on Inter-ethnic Families

 

) of the Centro Ambrosiano di Documentazione per le Religioni (the Milan Centre for Documentation on Religions

 

).

 

Lastly from interaction with individual Muslims the perspective moves onto the demanding task of understanding Islam from a Christian point of view. H. E. Mgr Mariano Crociata, current secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Italy, author of several essays on the theology of religions at the Facoltà Teologica di Sicilia (Faculty of Theology of Sicily), illustrates some ideas about the Christian understanding of Islam.

 

Overall, from the pages of this book a certain multifaceted portrait of Islam in Italy emerges. At the same time, they show how the Church built up a certain experience as it tried to respond to the social and cultural challenges posed by this new religious presence.

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