22 March 2016, The Tablet

Christians and Muslims come together to honour Virgin Mary in Paris, Brussels and Tunis

Vision of Mary in Islam 'complements her role in Christianity'

A Christian-Muslim event to highlight the role of the Virgin Mary in both faiths, held for the first time last year in a town south of Paris, will expand to four sites in France this year and be copied in Brussels and Tunis.

Some of the six meetings in the series to be held from late March to late May will be prayer services with readings from the Koran and the Bible, as well as prayers and hymns from both religions. Most will be in Catholic churches.

Two will be round table discussions between leading Christian and Muslim figures, one of them at the Grand Mosque of Paris. The organisers hope further events can be held in local churches and mosques.

Fr Vincent Feroldi, the French bishops' conference official for relations with Muslims, told a Paris news conference presenting the programme that Lebanon has held such meetings for almost a decade but a prayer service last year in Longpont-sur-Orge was the first in France.

“The vision of Mary in Islam complements that in Christianity,” said Younes Aberkane of the French Muslim Scouts, another of the organisers. Known as Maryam in Arabic, Mary is the only woman named in the Koran, which has a whole chapter on her.

“After the annus horribilis of 2015, now more than ever we need regular meetings of people of good faith,” said Ghaleb Bencheikh of Religion for Peace. “The figure of Mary can be a mediator for Muslims and Christians.”

The series will start in the Paris suburb of Créteil on 31 March and continue in Longpont-sur-Orge, Lyon, Brussels and end in Paris on 28 May. The date for the Tunis meeting has not yet been set.

Among the Catholic sponsors are Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who is active in Catholic-Muslim dialogue in his Lyon archdiocese, Bishop Michel Dubost, head of the bishops’ interreligious dialogue council, and Eparch Nasser Gemayel, bishop of the Maronite Christians in France.



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