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Vatican: Catholic-Muslim Forum a “Step Forward”

Spokesman Said Much Work Is Still to Be Done

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 9, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The first seminar of the Muslim-Catholic Forum was “a significant step forward in dialogue,” says a Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit
Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office,
made this claim on the last episode of “Octava Dies,” a weekly program
of the Vatican Television Center. The three-day Catholic-Muslim meeting
ended Thursday in Rome.

The Church, he recalled, “has regular
meetings with various groups of Muslim representatives,” but this
meeting “demonstrated the possibility of entering more deeply and
frankly into essential themes and of successfully expressing, with
greater clarity and fidelity, that which unites and differentiates
[us].”

The final joint declaration “contains important
statements about respect for persons and their choices in matters of
conscience and religion [and] on the equal dignity of men and women.”

Father Lombardi said that Benedict XVI is encouraging the efforts at dialogue.

The
Vatican spokesman characterized the dialogue of the forum as “open” and
taking place in “a climate of trust.” He added that there are hopes
that the dialogue will extend itself to larger circles in the Christian
and Muslim world.

The priest observed that the often bloody
conflicts between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East and the
Balkans have made the dialogue “complex and difficult, but they must
not hamper or stop it.”

Benedict XVI, Father Lombardi said, has
invited the two sides to “unite their efforts, with the goal of
overcoming incomprehension, overcoming prejudices and correcting the
distorted image of the other.”

“The road remains a long one but this is a step in the right direction,” Father Lombardi concluded.

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