In sermon, Minnesota pastor calls Muslims a 'threat'

Updated: 8:20 p.m.

A Minnesota priest is apologizing for a recent homily that called Islam a threat to the United States.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Wednesday that the Minnesota Catholic Conference should repudiate the sermon by the Rev. Nick VanDenBroeke in which he said that Islam was the “greatest threat in the world” to the U.S. and Christianity.

The pastor at Immaculate Conception parish in Lonsdale, Minn., delivered the homily Jan. 5 on Immigration Sunday, when church leaders asked Minnesota Catholics to commit to welcoming migrants and refugees.

CAIR's request came after the newspaper City Pages published an article Wednesday about the sermon. In a statement later Wednesday, VanDenBroeke apologized to the Muslim community, saying “I realize now that my comments were not fully reflective of the Catholic Church’s teaching on Islam.”

Bernard Hebda, archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said in a separate statement that VanDenBroeke’s homily is out of line with Roman Catholic teaching. Hebda said people of all faiths "must work together to banish every form of discrimination, intolerance and religious fundamentalism," and that the Catholic Church "looks with esteem to Muslims."

“I have spoken with Father VanDenBroeke about his homily on immigration and he has expressed sorrow for his words,” Hebda said. “I am grateful for the many examples of friendship that have been offered by the Muslim community in our region and we are committed to strengthening the relationship between the two communities.”

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Hebda added that Pope Francis also has stressed the importance of dialogue between Catholics and Muslims and has urged all Christians and Muslims to be “true promoters of mutual respect and friendship, in particular through education.”

Jaylani Hussein with the CAIR said he's pleased with the Archbishop's response.

"People need to really hold their religious leaders, community leaders and anyone, accountable for this type of behavior," Hussein said. "We look forward to working with him and meeting him to discuss further about this issue and also his continued support for challenging Islamophobia in our state."

The homily was recorded and posted on the church's website.

VanDenBroeke said parishioners must remember that immigrants are humans deserving of compassion. But he added that sovereign nations have the right and responsibility to control their borders to protect their citizens and lands.

“Both as Americans and as Christians, we do not need to pretend that everyone who seeks to enter America needs to be treated the same,” he said. “I believe it is essential to consider the religion and worldview of the immigrants or refugees.

“More specifically, we should not be allowing large numbers of Muslims [seeking] asylum or immigration into our country. Islam is the greatest threat in the world both to Christianity and to America," he said.

VanDenBroeke urged his parishioners to oppose Muslim immigration.

He also said he believes that young immigrants known as Dreamers, who were brought to the United States as children, should have a path to citizenship. And he said that he thinks the country's immigration system could be easily fixed if a wall were built to close the southern border to curb future illegal immigration and "at the same time provide a path to legal citizenship for those who have been living here, who can prove they’re not criminals, they’re living good and peaceful lives, they’re willing to work and pay taxes and be responsible.”

MPR News reporter Matt Sepic contributed to this story.