in Christian-Muslim talks should be shared with the faithful, and not
restricted to the experts, Pope Benedict has said.
this week Benedict XVI received participants in the First Seminar of
the Catholic-Muslim Forum. The event has been organised by the
Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and by the 138 Muslim
representatives who, on October 13, 2007, sent an open letter to the
Pope and to other heads of Christian Churches and ecclesial Communities.
In his English-language remarks to them, the Pope noted that the open
letter “has received numerous responses, and has given rise to
dialogue, specific initiatives and meetings, aimed at helping us to
know one another more deeply and to grow in esteem for our shared
values. The great interest which the present seminar has awakened is an
incentive for us to ensure that the reflections and the positive
developments which emerge from Muslim-Christian dialogue are not
limited to a small group of experts and scholars, but are passed on as
a precious legacy to be placed at the service of all, to bear fruit in
the way we live each day”.
According to the Vatican Information Service, the Holy Father pointed
out that the theme chosen for the meeting, “Love of God, Love of
Neighbour: The Dignity of the Human Person and Mutual Respect”,
highlights “even more clearly the theological and spiritual foundations
of a central teaching of our respective religions. … Our calling and
mission is to share freely with others the love which God lavishes upon
us without any merit of our own”.
“I was pleased to learn that you were able at this meeting to adopt a
common position on the need to worship God totally and to love our
fellow men and women disinterestedly, especially those in distress and
need. God calls us to work together on behalf of the victims of
disease, hunger, poverty, injustice and violence.
“For Christians, the love of God is inseparably bound to the love …
of all men and women, without distinction of race and culture. … The
Muslim tradition is also quite clear in encouraging practical
commitment in serving the most needy. … We should thus work together
in promoting genuine respect for the dignity of the human person and
fundamental human rights, even though our anthropological visions and
our theologies justify this in different ways. There is a great and
vast field in which we can act together in defending and promoting the
moral values which are part of our common heritage”.
The Pope continued: “Only by starting with the recognition of the
centrality of the person and the dignity of each human being,
respecting and defending life which is the gift of God, and is thus
sacred for Christians and for Muslims alike – only on the basis of this
recognition, can we find a common ground for building a more fraternal
world, a world in which confrontations and differences are peacefully
settled, and the devastating power of ideologies is neutralised.
“My hope is that these fundamental human rights will be protected for
all people everywhere. Political and religious leaders have the duty of
ensuring the free exercise of these rights in full respect for each
individual’s freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. The
discrimination and violence which even today religious people
experience throughout the world, and the often violent persecutions to
which they are subject, represent unacceptable and unjustifiable acts,
all the more grave and deplorable when they are carried out in the name
“God’s name can only be a name of peace and fraternity, justice and
love. We are challenged to demonstrate, by our words and above all by
our deeds, that the message of our religions is unfailingly a message
of harmony and mutual understanding. It is essential that we do so,
lest we weaken the credibility and the effectiveness not only of our
dialogue, but also of our religions themselves”.
“Let us unite our efforts, animated by good will, in order to overcome
all misunderstanding and disagreements”, Pope Benedict concluded. “Let
us resolve to overcome past prejudices and to correct the often
distorted images of the other which even today can create difficulties
in our relations; let us work with one another to educate all people,
especially the young, to build a common future”.