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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Italy: Muslim leader defends Pope on inter-faith dialogue

Roma, 24 Nov. (AKI) – Pope Benedict XVI’s praise for a new book which
argues Europe should stay true to its Christian roots should not be
misinterpreted, the head of the association of Italian Muslims, Ahmad
Gianpiero Vincenzo, told Adnkronos International (AKI).

In comments made in the preface to Italian center-right politician
Marcello Pera’s forthcoming book ‘Why We Must Call Ourselves Christian’
Benedict XVI appeared to cast doubt on the possibility of
inter-religious dialogue.

The Pope also called for more discussion of the practical consequences of religious differences.

In a quotation from the preface which appeared in Italian
newspapers on Sunday, Benedict said the book “explained with great
clarity” why “an interreligious dialogue in the strict sense of the
word is not possible.”

“The pontiff’s words in his forward to Marcello Pera’s latest book
must be correctly interpreted without any manipulation by those who are
seeking a clash of civilisations ” Vincenzo told AKI.

“For us Muslims, inter-religious dialogue has a fundamental role in
today’s world, where more than ever before the underlying principles
that religions have in common need to be underlined, starting with
faith in the same God,” he said.

“We totally agree with Benedict that it is not possible to advance
dialogue between religions that plays down the specific doctrines and
rituals of individual faiths.

“Otherwise, we slide into the relativism of those who believe all
religions are the same and that individual religious doctrines and
ritual practices are no longer needed,” said Vincenzo.

Benedict XVI’s potentially controversial comments came only a
couple of weeks after the Vatican hosted a landmark inter-faith
conference in Rome with Muslims religious leaders and scholars, aimed
at improving ties between Islam and Christianity. Members of the
association of Italian Muslims attended the conference.

The conference agreed to condemn religious freedom and protect
religious freedom, but did not address issues of conversion and the
rights of Christians in majority Muslim countries to worship.

Ahmad said the conference had however proposed the creation of a
permanent Catholic-Islamic Inter-religious Forum to resolve conflicts -
at a time when these are intensifying.

“This would be an exceptional opportunity to counter the actions of
fundamentalist extremists and reiterate the basic ethical values shared
by the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths – respect for life and
religious traditions,” Vincenzo concluded.