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Cardinal Cupich’s Statements

Remarks of Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, at 24th Annual Muslim-Catholic Iftar

March 13, 2024

It is always a joy for me to be among friends, which is what I find in this room as we come together for this 2024 Annual Muslim – Catholic Iftar gathering. My thanks go to our hosts tonight, the Islamic Foundation – North, to President Ahmed Nader, Resident Scholar Sheikh Azfar Uddin, and the staff and community of this wonderful place of prayer and fellowship. Your warm welcome this evening is deeply appreciated.

I also want to recognize the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC), including Executive Director Abdullah Mitchell, Board Chair Dr. Muhammad Abdulgany Hamedeh, Zulfie Khan and Aayshah Mirza for their efforts in making tonight’s gathering a reality. The CIOGC is a valued and long-standing partner of the Archdiocese of Chicago and I look forward to joining you each year for this joyful breaking of the fast. Encounters like these contribute so much to improving our mutual understanding of one another and give Muslims and Catholics a regular forum to build relationships of trust and friendship.

I am especially grateful that this year’s iftar meal falls during Lent. Both Ramadan and Lent are times for our respective communities to fast, give charitably, and focus more time and attention on prayer. For Catholics, Lent offers us a time to focus on the basics and reflect more clearly on what grounds our faith. Christians, like everyone else, can easily get caught up in our fears and our own desires, forgetting that we trust in God for all our needs.

Lent offers Catholics a season to strengthen our faith in God but it also asks us to reassess our relationship with others and all of creation. I find the theme for tonight, “healing through kindness,” to be timely. We are still coming out of the pandemic, when so much pain and
suffering was experienced throughout the world. We are all in need of healing as evidenced in so many ways. Our nation and community remain in need of healing from increased divisiveness and toxic rhetoric that makes healing more and more elusive. What does this profound need for healing require of us?

The first thing we need to do is see one another and to respond to each another with respect as fellow daughters and sons of God. What is required is kindness.

The Introduction to the 2019 “Document on Human Fraternity,” co-signed by Pope Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayib, Grand Imam of Al Azhar, reminds us that faith in God should impact how we relate to others. They write, “Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved. Through faith in God, who has created the universe, creatures and all human beings (equal on account of his mercy), believers are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and the entire universe and supporting all persons, especially the poorest and those most in need.” Our faith in God calls us to take care of one another especially those in the most dire of situations.

For this reason, we are greatly troubled by the many wars in our world today, especially the ongoing war in Gaza. I have come to know, as best I can, the deep pain and trauma that many of you feel because of this war. It is likely that some here tonight have lost family and friends in this conflict. I am here with you tonight to support you in your grief and assure you that you are heard and seen amidst your mourning.

I join my voice to so many others calling for the release of all hostages and the increase of humanitarian aid to those in such dire need. I join the Holy Father in praying for a ceasefire in Gaza and for a two-state solution in the pursuit of a lasting peace to take root in Israel, Gaza, and the Palestinian territories. Our Christian faith requires us to see everyone mired in this conflict as a beloved brother or sister, made in the image and likeness of God.

Lent and Ramadan call us to not only deepen our relationship with our Creator, but with those around us. It is especially during times of difficulty that we must draw upon the relationships we have built over many years. We have to remember that tonight’s gathering is not just an educational opportunity, it is also a call to renew and develop the longstanding relationship between Muslims and Catholics in Greater Chicago. I also wish to remind you of my firm commitment to combat islamophobia and all forms of anti-Muslim bias. I know the hurt and vulnerability your community is now feeling and express my solidarity with you at this time.

Let me end by again referencing the “Document on Human Fraternity,” which states, “We, who believe in God and in the final meeting with Him and His judgment, on the basis of our religious and moral responsibility, and through this Document, call upon ourselves, upon the leaders of the world as well as the architects of international policy and world economy, to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace; to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline that the world is presently experiencing.”

May our expressions of kindness locally help bring about the healing needed to build relationships grounded upon trust and mutual respect. This healing will not come easily or quickly. However, our work at spreading a culture of peace is greatly enhanced when grounded in kind and respectful actions that are the foundation of our shared humanity and common origin in a generous, merciful God.