The Vatican has distanced itself from a row over Muslim immigrants in Europe triggered by the showing at a synod of a video that claims "Europe as we know it will cease to exist."
Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Vatican's council for justice and peace – and seen as a possible future pope – played the disputed video in a discussion period on Saturday during a synod attended by 262 bishops from across the world.
Entitled Muslim Demographics, and viewed more than 13m times on YouTube since its release in 2009, the seven-minute long video claims Muslim immigration and higher birth rates means France will become "an Islamic republic" within 39 years.
But many of the statistics used have been shown to be false or unproven, including a claim that French Muslim families have 8.1 children on average, and that 25% of Belgians are Muslims – the true figure is 6%. A German government official is falsely quoted as saying Germany will be a Muslim state by 2050.
On Tuesday, a Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, sought to distance the holy see from the video, saying: "This video does not express the view of the synod or the Vatican. Turkson has said he is sorry if the video was wrongly interpreted since he did not intend it to be anti-Muslim, merely a comment on the nihilism in western society."
Bishops who watched the video were reportedly shocked by its content.
"I think it would be fair to say that several in the room questioned the veracity of the facts followed by, 'who can this be attributed to?' and 'who actually wanted this film to be shown?'" said Father Thomas Rosica during a press briefing on the synod.
Vatican radio was more critical, calling the video "fear mongering", adding: "Why one of the curial cardinals chose to show this piece of anti-Islamic propaganda is quite unclear."
Pope Benedict has stressed the importance of defending Europe's Christian identity, but he has also promoted dialogue with Muslims, most recently during his visit to Lebanon last month. Last week he read out a greeting in Arabic for the first time during his weekly general audience in a bid to ease religious tensions.
Turkson, who is from Ghana, has said over the years that theological dialogue with Muslims is impossible. Known for his strong views, the cardinal also proposed the creation of a global bank after the global economic crisis began in 2008.
One bishop at the synod asked about the spurious video shown was less critical, telling the National Catholic Reporter: "At least it got us talking about something more important than what order confirmation and first communion ought to be in."
Full Story: Vatican tries to create distance from row over Muslim Demographics video
Source: The Guardian