A Minnesota Catholic leader on Wednesday rejected remarks made by a priest who called Islam the "greatest threat in the world" to the United States and Christianity.
The Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke, pastor of a church in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, also urged parishioners to oppose Muslim immigration in a sermon earlier this month, but faced criticism after the newspaper City Pages reported on the homily this week.
Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda said VanDenBroeke apologized for his comments in a statement issued Wednesday, the same day a Muslim civil rights group requested the church denounce the sermon. Hebda referenced Roman Catholic Church teachings to respect Muslims and said the archdiocese is committed to strengthening interfaith relationships.
"If all of us who believe in God desire to promote reconciliation, justice and peace, we must work together to banish every form of discrimination, intolerance and religious fundamentalism," Hebda said. "That continues to be our teaching today. Pope Francis has echoed Pope Benedict, stating that it is important to intensify the dialogue between Catholics and Islam."
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, welcomed the statement and further talks with the archbishop. He said he didn't expect the remarks from the Catholic Church community and was disappointed by them.
"Islamophobia is on the rise, and we know this is regretfully just an example of what Islamophobia is and how hate spreads," Hussein said. "Unfortunately this case was through a pastor."
VanDenBroeke gave the sermon, which was posted on the church's website and has since been removed, on Jan. 5 at the Church of Immaculate Conception in Lonsdale, about 50 miles from Minneapolis. During the 15-minute hominy, he also urged the congregation to oppose Muslim immigration.