Photo: A protest in Rome against Islamophobia, October 30 (AFP)

The EU Bishops’ president has insisted that blaming Islam and immigration for terror “does not reflect the truth”.

– Pope “shows us the way” on peaceful coexistence: “Freedom can only be practiced together with fraternity”

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the Archbishop of Luxembourg and president of COMECE – the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union – analysed with SIR November 4 the recent spate of terrorism in Europe which has seen a teacher beheaded in Paris, three people stabbed to death in a basilica in Nice and four people shot on the streets of Vienna, among other attacks.

“It does not reflect the truth” to say that Islam and immigration are to blame for terrorism, “and this is evident in a number of cases”, Hollerich stressed.

“The Muslim Union of Luxembourg wrote me a letter immediately after the attack in Nice. They expressed to me, in my capacities as leader of the Catholic Church in our country, their full horror at that act of barbarity.

“The Imam of Bordeaux said in clear terms that the Prophet [Muhammad] would have been ashamed of the attack in Nice, recalling that Muhammad [was] criticised many times during his lifetime but he never took these criticisms seriously and was never upset”.

That truth about Muhammad aside, Hollerich called for limits to the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet that Muslims find offensive and that radical extremists are claiming as motivation for their attacks.

“I think there cannot be absolute freedom. I believe that freedom of expression must take into account other people’s views, their feelings, religious beliefs in particular”, the cardinal explained.

The prelate recalled that Pope Francis “shows us the way” in terms of the need for respect for difference in his new encyclical Fratelli tutti.

That document’s “message to us all, including France, is that freedom can only be practiced together with fraternity, if not, there is no equality”, Hollerich claimed.

– “Europe is a successful story of coexistence and this upsets the terrorists… That is why they attack us”

Having dissociated the attacks in Paris, Nice, Vienna and elsewhere from Islam and immigration, Hollerich explained what in his opinion is the real purpose of terror: “to divide Europe, to strengthen far-right and populist movements which foment division, and alienate Europe from its founding values”.

Asked why Europe has become a target, the cardinal said that it is “because Europe shows the world that extremism is meaningless; because Europe is a continent where very diverse peoples succeeded in living together, sharing common values”.

“Europe is a successful story of coexistence and this upsets the terrorists. They cannot accept that this project, based on common values, is successful. And that is why they attack us”, Hollerich stressed.

The COMECE president called on Europe to commit to a “united response” to the wave of terror, and highlighted that that common resolve must mean “that all EU countries, all Christians, atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Jews, must speak with a single voice. All together we must say NO”.

“We must firmly declare that we will not allow hate to win us over. We must say that, on the contrary, we intend to embrace the values underlying the European project. We intend to abide by the human fraternity outlined by Pope Francis. On this matter we will not succumb”.

More on Novena on the wave of terrorism in Europe:

4/11: General Audience: Pope expresses “dismay and reprobation” at “deplorable” terrorism “escalating in its cruelty throughout Europe”

4/11: General Audience: Francis denounces terror “seeks to compromise fraternal cooperation between religions through violence and hatred”

In wake of terror, World Council of Churches, Vienna interfaith group plead: “Bring this bloodshed to an end”

“Not the struggle of Islam against Christianity”: Portuguese bishop blames Nice terror attack on European “prejudices”

Muslim world expresses “utter rejection” of Nice terrorist attack: “Inconsistent with all religions, human beliefs and common sense”

Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio calls on world to avoid “instrumentalisation of religions” at service of economic, political “clash of civilisations”

Cardinal Sarah fans flames of Islamophobia after attack in Nice basilica leaves three dead

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.