The first meeting of the Catholic-Muslim Forum took place in Vatican
City from November 4th through 6th. Two delegations — one Muslim, one
Catholic — each consisting of 29 religious experts and leaders,
attended. Among them was the head of the Islamic community in Bosnia
and Herzegovina, Grand Mufti Mustafa Efendija Ceric.
forum’s creators were the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious
Dialogue and the 138 Muslim representatives who, on October 13th 2007,
sent an open letter to the pope and to other heads of Christian
churches and ecclesiastic communities.
On the third day of
the seminar, the participants had an audience with the pontiff. “This
meeting is a clear sign of our mutual respect,” said Pope Benedict XVI.
During his speech, he characterised the seminar as another step towards
better understanding between Muslims and Christians.
Among those in the papal audience was Efendija Ceric. In his statement to the Sarajevo-based daily Dnevni Avaz, he conveyed his impressions from the conversation with the pope.
told the pope that BiH is a country of good people and invited him to
visit our country and Sarajevo,” said Efendija Ceric, who also conveyed
greetings to the pontiff from the Catholic cardinal of Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Vinko Puljic.
The Islamic leader said he was
returning to Sarajevo with much more optimism for the future of Europe.
“This is a landmark for resolution of differences in the European
context,” he said. He added that “the beginning of this dialogue based
on common words, initiated by Muslims, is a promising one.”
Catholic and Muslim religious leaders declared in Vatican City they
would jointly fight violence and terrorism, particularly those crimes
“committed in the name of religion”.
Their final declaration calls for the protection of religious minorities from “any form of mockery or ridicule”.
Forum participants resolved to convene every two years.