Non-Catholics Respond To Pope's Visit

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ANCHOR:

WHEN POPE BENEDICT VISITS DC NEXT WEEK, HIS TRIP WILL, NO DOUBT, BE CLOSELY WATCHED BY THE CATHOLIC FAITHFUL. BUT THE POPE’S REACH, STRETCHES WELL BEYOND THE CONFINES OF THE CHURCH.

NEWSCHANNEL 8′s JACKIE CONGEDO EXPLORES THE PONTIFF’S CONNECTION TO LEADERS AND PRACTITIONERS OF ALL FAITHS. 

STORY:

FARHANAHZ ELLIS OF THE ISLAMIC ADAMS CENTER IN FAIRFAX CHERISHES A PIECE OF PAPER, THAT’S AN INVITATION TO AN INTERFAITH MEETING THE POPE IS HOSTING WHILE HE’S IN THE STATES.

“It speaks volumes, not just to us non-christians, but to the world,” Ellis said.

IT WAS POPE BENEDICTS IDEA TO BRING 200 SOME LEADERS OF FIVE DIFFERENT RELIGIONS TOGETHER, TO OPEN THE DIALOGUE AND WHILE THE HOUR LONG MEETING WON’T LEAVE MUCH TIME FOR DISCUSSION, RELIGIOUS LEADERS AGREE THE GESTURE ITSELF IS A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.

“This is something that he holds very deeply for himself, but also something that grows out of the things that he has done that have caused problems and learning more and more that he’s no longer just a professor, he’s a pope. People are listening in ways they didn’t listen to a professor,” said Rev. Clark Lobenstine.

HIS WORDS UPSET MANY OF THE ISLAMIC FAITH IN 2006. WHEN HE REFERENCED A MEDIEVAL TEXT THAT CHARACTERIZED SOME OF MOHAMMED’S TEACHINGS AS EVIL AND INHUMAN.

“We have to be able to say look each other in the eye and say, I disagree with this I think that’s part of being respectful,” said Mohamed Magid, the Executive Director for the Adams Center.

AN APOLOGY FOLLOWED, AND THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY RESPONDED WITH A DOCUMENT SIGNED BY 138 ISLAMIC SCHOLARS ENTITLED “A COMMON WORD”.

“This letter could be seen as a hand extended in friendship and in understanding and in openness,” said Ellis. 

NOW MANY OF OTHER FAITHS SEE THE POPE’S VISIT AS A HAND EXTENDED IN RETURN.

David Michaels with the B’Nai B’Rith International, said the Pope’s visit will give opportunities, “to underscore the relations that we’ve developed over the past 40 years. It’s really remarkable by the way&nnbsp;the Jewish community and the Catholic community here and abroad.

DAVID MICHAELS CREDITS THE EFFORTS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND IT’S MOST RECENT LEADER, JOHN PAUL THE II FOR MUCH OF THAT PROGRESS.

“We’ve seen a transformation of this relationship once contentious, into a real friendship. It’s a friendship with differences, a friendship with bumps along the road,” Michaels said.

AMONG THOSE BUMPS, MICHAELS SAYS, IS THE ISSUE OF CONVERSION. NAMELY BENEDICT’S PROMOTION OF THE TRIDENTINE MASS, WHICH, MICHAELS SAYS, INCLUDES A PRAYER ESSENTIALLY FOR THE CONVERSION OF JEWS. 

“It’s one that our Catholic partners recognize that they need to clarify and to address,” he said.

IN HIS EASTER ADDRESS BENEDICT REJOICED OVER THE CONVERSION OF A PROMINENT ITALIAN MUSLIM TO CATHOLICISM. REACTION RANGED FROM CRITICISM OVER WHAT COULD BE CALLED A PROVOCATIVE ACT, TO ACCEPTANCE OF A SIMPLE EXERCISE OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.

“When I share my faith with others it needs to be in the context of openness and acceptance,” said Rev. Clark Lobenstine.

CERTAINLY TWO WORDS THAT THIS MUSLIM LEADER WOULD USE TO CHARACTERIZE BENEDICT’S UPCOMING INTERFAITH MEETING. BUT HE SAYS THE FACT THAT IT’S NEWSWORTHY MEANS THERE’S STILL PROGRESS TO BE MADE.

“Why not the norms that people are talking, we’re supposed to be the norms that there’s a dialogue, continuous dialogue,” said Magid.

AND, HE SAYS, THERE’S NO TURNING BACK NOW.

“There’s no way out of this,  that people must sit and talk because otherwise religion can be used to paralyze the whole world.”

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