VATICAN CITY (RNS) As a Vatican delegation prepares to leave for civil war-torn Syria
, the Catholic Church's fraught relation with Islam has emerged as one of the main themes at a major gathering of the world's bishops in Rome.
The debate was stirred by a leading cardinal who, on Saturday (Oct. 13), showed a controversial video called "Muslim Demographics" which purports to show Islam's growing global influence. The video was shown during a Vatican-organized synod of bishops on new ways to evangelize in the modern world.
The accuracy of the seven-minute video's data and projections have been sharply disputed and criticized by experts since its emergence in 2009, but the film sparked renewed soul-searching among Catholic leaders on the church's stance towards the growth of Islam in the West and in Africa.
But synod fathers have also acknowledged that Islamic growth might offer some hints to a church that struggles to recapture lapsed or tepid believers in the West. During the free discussion at the end of each synod session, one bishop – whose identity was not disclosed because of Vatican rules – wondered why Catholics are mostly women, while other faiths have a large proportion of men in their ranks.