Vatican: Church backs more mosques for worship

Vatican City, 4 Dec. (AKI) - Italy's Muslims can have more mosques as long as they are used as places of worship, said a senior Vatican official on Thursday. "The place of worship must have its own cultural and spiritual identity, as well as its own religious identity which is a fundamental element, and must not acquire any other identity," said Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, Vatican Cultural Council chief.

Speaking after the arrest of two terror suspects in the northern Italian city of Milan, Ravasi made the remarks at a conference on interreligious dialogue at the Vatican.

"If (the mosque) becomes something different, civil society has a right to intervene," Ravasi said. "Here we are talking about a western society that distinguishes between religious and political spheres, however the mosque carries out a charitable function which is a special quality so that religion also has a social function."

"However, that sphere must not be exceeded. The mosque cannot turn into a centre for other means because it loses its function."

Ravasi's remarks came two days after two alleged terror suspects were arrested in the northern Italian city of Milan. The arrests sparked the anti-immigrant Northern League party to call for a freeze on mosque construction.

Recorded telephone conversations published in the Italian media suggested that the two Moroccans, Rachid Ilhami and Abdelkader Ghaffir were planning a terror attack on Milan's famous cathedral, the Duomo, during this year's forthcoming Christmas festivities.



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