Archbishop gives blessing to ecumenical house of worship

The House of One’s design incorporates a church, a mosque, and a synagogue circling a central meeting place to be used for inter-faith discussion. 

Archbishop Charles Scicluna has welcomed a project to construct a church, a mosque and a synagogue under one roof in Gozo. 

In a brief statement to MaltaToday, Scicluna said that his views echoed those of Gozo bishop Mario Grech, who had described the project as an “interesting” one in the context of a globalised world with a growing level of cultural and religious overlap and dialogue.

Earlier this month, Sunday newspaper Illum revealed the Ministry for Gozo’s plans to construct this place of worship on the outskirts of Xewkija, close to the Gozo Stadium. The newspaper also revealed the early plans for the building, designed by architect Richard England, designer of places of worship such as the Millennium Chapel in Paceville and the Church of St Francis in Qawra. 

“Catholics, Muslims, and Jews are all brothers since we all recognise the same God,” Grech said. “As Catholics, we respect all religions, but Islam and Judaism in particular.

“We are living in a society in which, for some reason or other, people appear to have grown fed up of religion. It is clear that some of these people have mistaken understandings of God, while others have a great thirst for God in the hope of finding answers to their profound questions.

“One can only hope that this proposed place of worship can somehow help people fill up their existential vacuums.”

The idea behind a church-mosque-synagogue is not the first of its kind, with a similar project in Berlin, the ‘House of One’, expected to open its doors next year.

The House of One’s design incorporates a church, a mosque, and a synagogue circling a central meeting place to be used for inter-faith discussion. 

Laiq Ahmed Atif, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta, believes that the Gozitan version should take it a step or two further. 

“I hope that it will be a fully inclusive project that brings all religious communities on board, and not just main strands of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism,” he told MaltaToday. “If it proves to be a truly inclusive project, then I think it will bear wonderful fruit.

“If there is true conviction towards promoting inclusivity behind this project, then I’ll consider it a very positive step and will fully support it. I don’t believe in image-building, but rather in doing something because you have a clear conviction in it.” 

He pointed out that the concept of people of different faiths praying under one roof is by no means alien to Islam. 

“The life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad is filled with examples of how he always advocated freedom of religion and worship. To give one example, when a delegation of Christians from the city of Najran came to visit Medina, the Holy Prophet happily gave them permission to worship in his own Mosque, in their own way and to give worship not towards the Kaaba but to worship in a westerly direction as was their method.” 

“Prayer is common in all three religions,” he said. “Rather than fighting amongst us, why don’t we create a place of worship for all? I’m very hopeful that this project will help create an atmosphere of mutual respect and harmony.”