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Feature – Catholic-Muslim dialogue flourishes despite rocky start

Five years after Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg
address that ignited protests around the Islamic world, the
Catholic-Muslim Forum established to improve interfaith relations has
said that what began as formal dialogue has become increasingly
characterised by friendship, reports the Tablet.

forum, which grew out of Muslim dissatisfaction with comments in Pope
Benedict’s 2006 Regensburg speech, held its second round of theological
consultations in Jordan last week.

The fate of Middle Eastern Christian minorities amid the Arab
Spring’s Islamist renaissance provided a sombre background to the
meeting, much as perceived Christian misunderstandings about Islam
preceded the first session of the forum at the Vatican in November 2008.

But increasing contacts between Catholic officials
and Muslim scholars of the Common Word initiative, the 2007 Islamic
dialogue appeal to Pope Benedict, have created bonds that helped both
sides tackle sensitive issues.

“We have realised that we have a
common heritage,” Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical
Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said at the conference, held on the
east bank of the Jordan River near where Jesus is believed to have been

“We have passed from formal dialogue to a dialogue between friends.”
Jordan’s Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, who heads the Common Word
group and hosted the meeting, recalled the initial strains and said:
“Since then, despite some misunderstandings, I dare say the general
Muslim-Catholic ambience has ameliorated considerably.”

the November 21-23 forum, 24 Catholic and 24 Muslim religious leaders,
scholars and educators meeting here debated how each religion combines
faith and reason – the core message of the Regensburg speech that was
drowned out by protests over Pope Benedict’s use of a Byzantine
emperor’s quote calling Islam irrational and violent.