ROME, SEPT. 3, 2010 (Zenit.org).- On an official visit to Italy this week, the Libyan chief of state caused a few ripples by stating that Europe should convert to Islam. The general public was perhaps more shocked, however, by his request for a few billion dollars to stop African immigration.
However, a missionary priest did call for taking seriously Muammar al-Qadhafi's statements on religion, saying a European conversion to Islam just might happen if the continent continues denying its Christian roots.
Father Piero Gheddo of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and founder of the missionary news agency AsiaNews, said that far from being "folklore," al-Qadhafi's summons could become a reality in a few decades.
"The fact is that, as a people, we are becoming ever more pagan and the religious vacuum is inevitably filled by other proposals and religious forces," the priest said.
He observed, "No newspaper -- except Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Episcopal Conference -- has seriously taken into consideration how to respond to this challenge of Islam, which sooner or later will conquer the majority in Europe."
Archbishop Robert Sarah, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, classified the Libyan leader's call as a "provocation" and a lack of respect for Italy.
Father Gheddo stated: "The challenge must be taken seriously.
"Certainly from a demographic point of view, as it is clear to everyone that Italians are decreasing by 120,000 or 130,000 persons a year because of abortion and broken families; while among the more than 200,000 legal immigrants a year in Italy, more than half are Muslims and Muslim families, which have a much higher level of growth."
"Newspapers and television programs never speak of this," he added. "However, an answer must be given above all in the religious and cultural fields and in the area of identity."
The priest lamented the "religious vacuum" in the region, observing that "religious practice diminishes in Christian Europe and indifference spreads; Christianity and the Church are attacked."
Father Gheddo asserted, "If we consider ourselves a Christian country, we should return to the practice of Christian life, which would also solve the problem of empty cradles."