The video, which was anonymously posted, is an alarmist presentation of the demographic growth of Islam in Europe and North America. It was originally posted apparently in 2009 and has been seen 13,000,000 times. When played at the synod, it caused a major uproar in the media here. The video provoked criticism from a number of European bishops who questioned both its statistics and its tone. Catholic News Agency offers a good summary of the fallout and Cardinal Turkson’s apology.
Nevertheless, the discussion is a good one to have as there are two major realities at work. The first is the need for on-going dialogue with Islam, especially as they are rivals with Christianity as the fastest growing religion in the world, and the second is also the need to rebuild much of an increasingly sclerotic Western culture that is also becoming a demographic wasteland. The Holy Father is committed to the former and his important project of the New Evangelization is concerned especially with the latter.
Cardinal Wuerl, meanwhile, is doing a superb job as relator – or one of the leaders steering the work of the synod. One of his tasks is to guide the progress of the 262 members and present a summary of its labors, including 230 formal speeches and the sometimes even more memorable informal statements. Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, has been doing some blogging for the Catholic News Service, and he offered a very helpful analysis of Wuerl’s presentation a few days ago. He also touches on the question of Islam. Read it here.
Of course, this synod is on the New Evangelization and proclaiming the unchanging truths of the Gospel to the modern world in a way that can be comprehended by the modern mind. It was the task given to the Church fifty years ago by Pope Bl. John XXIII when he opened the Council. In looking back on the start of the council (something Benedict XVI has been doing with great energy over the last months), Pope John’s opening speech could very well have been written yesterday. More on the Council will follow over the next days.
In understanding the modern mind, it might be worth noting that while the incendiary “Muslim Demographics" video has been seen 13 million times, it pales in comparison to Gangnam Style, the eccentric and hilariously ludicrous video of the middle-aged Korean “dancer” Psy, which has now been seen more than 483 million times on YouTube. In a barometer of modern culture, I sat next to a young woman on the plane coming over, who watched the Korean dance video on her iPhone. And while I was at dinner at a restaurant near the Vatican yesterday, I heard a group of Italian girls singing the line “Hey sexy lady” from it. We clearly have our work cut out for us.