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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Historic Catholic-Muslim forum opens at Vatican

VATICAN
CITY – The Vatican last month opened historic interfaith talks with top
Muslim leaders, two years after Pope Benedict XVI sparked outrage among
Muslims for a speech seen as linking Islam with violence.

The
Holy See’s first-ever Catholic-Muslim forum opened “a new chapter in
the long history” of dialogue between the two faiths, the head of the
29-member Catholic delegation, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, told the
French Catholic daily La Croix.

The
Muslim side was led by the mufti of Bosnia, Mustafa Ceric, whose
spokesman, Yahya Pallavicini, said the delegates “represent no state
and no ideological tendency.” 

Tunisian
academic Adnane Mokrani, a member of the Muslim delegation, said on
Italian public radio RAI that the talks should be transformed from
closed door dialogue to an open forum.

The
delegation includes Swiss intellectual Tariq Ramadan, an outspoken and
controversial Muslim figure in Europe, along with Aref Ali Nayed of the
Islamic Center of Strategic Studies in Amman, Jordan, and Iranian
ayatollah Seyyed Mustafa Manegheg Damad.

Ramadan,
in a commentary published in France’s Le Monde newspaper, said the need
for “constructive dialogue on the values and the common goals is more
important than rivalry on the size of the adherents and conversion …
the fear that permeates the present sometimes makes us view the past
with bias.”

Ramadan
said the two sides had to work together on forging responses to the
“social, cultural and economic questions of our time.”

Several
women in the delegation included Ingrid Mattson, president of the
Islamic Society of North America and a professor of Islamic studies at
the Hartford Seminary in the United States.

The
Vatican seminar was organized in response to a Muslim call for dialogue
issued in October 2006, a month after Benedict’s controversial speech
in Regensburg, Germany.

The call, titled “A Common Word,” was signed by 138 Muslim religious figures and scholars.

The
Regensburg lecture sparked days of protests in Muslim countries,
prompting the head of the Roman Catholic Church to say that he was
“deeply sorry” for any offense and to attribute Muslim anger to an
“unfortunate misunderstanding.”

The
Vatican is however cautious over opening a purely theological dialogue,
with Tauran telling La Croix: “We’ll see … how far we can go
together.”

Christians
and Muslims differ in their concept of God, and follow “different paths
to reach this God,” said Tauran, the Roman Catholic Church’s pointman
for dialogue with Islam.

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