NY Archbishop Offers to Mediate Mosque Dispute

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

New York City’s Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan told the press on Wednesday that he would be glad to help mediate a compromise between supporters and opponents of an Islamic center and mosque that is planned for a site only blocks from ground zero.

The New York Times is reporting that Archbishop Dolan made the comments on Wednesday during an impromptu news conference at a shelter for homeless youth in Manhattan.

Invoking the example of Pope John Paul II who, in 1993, ordered a convent of Carmelite nuns to move their convent away from Auschwitz in deference to protests by Jewish leaders, the archbishop said, “He’s the one who said, ‘Let’s keep the idea, and maybe move the address.’ It worked there; might work here.”

He also said it was his “major prayer” that a compromise could be reached between both sides and while he expressed no personal opinion about the project, he did indicate his support for finding a new location for the center.

Thus far, Archbishop Dolan is the most prominent religious leader in New York to speak publicly about the project that is opposed by an overwhelmingly majority of Americans, including 63 percent of New Yorkers.

Later in the day, during an interview on WCBS radio, the Archbishop defended the religious freedom of Muslims, but said leaders of the mosque project should heed the views of those who have criticized it as an affront to the memory of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Those who wonder about the wisdom of the situation of the mosque, near such a wounded site, ask what I think are some legitimate questions that I think deserve attention,” he said.

He also indicated his support for Governor David Paterson’s offer to help developers find an alternative site. 

Planners of the mosque issued a statement last week saying they did not intend to build the center somewhere else.

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