Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism to become the world’s largest religion, a top church official said Sunday in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, who compiles the Vatican’s yearbook, said that 17.4 percent of the world’s population is now Catholic, while 19.2 percent is Muslim. “For the first time in history,” Formenti said, “we are no longer at the top.” (AP via ABC News)
What the commentators said
The Vatican is struggling to come to terms with religion’s evolution, said Rosie Dimanno in the Toronto Star. “In truth, the Vatican is intensely envious of Islam, not only as the world's most rapidly growing religion, but also for the ferocity of its adherents and the way in which faith invests every aspect of their daily life.” Judging by the state of the world today, there “certainly needs to be a lot more education, on both sides, to combat ignorance and mutual distrust.”
Pope Benedict XVI is trying to “open the door to Christian-Muslim dialogue,” said Charles Lewis in the National Post, but it’s hard to do that when you’re also “the world’s foremost Catholic evangelist.” Just last week, Pope Benedict faced criticism that he had provoked or insulted Islam by publicly baptizing Magdi Allam—“a Muslim Italian journalist who has been an outspoken critic of radical Islam”—on Easter Sunday, although his defenders said he was just trying to send a message of solidarity to Christians who live in intolerant Muslim societies.
Why are Americans and Europeans so apologetic about “defending our values against the intolerance of radical Muslims”? said Afshin Ellian in The Wall Street Journal. Dutch lawmakers practically begged parliamentarian Geert Wilders not to release his 15-minute short film, Fitna, which points out that the Koran is “the living inspiration for jihadists.” The fear was that Wilders would provoke riots by making that undeniable point, but trying to stifle his right to express his view amounts to “betrayal and cowardice.”