Catholic-Muslim Dialogue Takes Step Forward As Dates Are Set

Vatican City, Mar 5, 2008 / 11:06 am (CNA) - Members of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue met with Muslim leaders March 4 and 5 to establish a ‘Catholic-Muslim Forum’.  The forum’s first seminar will be held in Rome, November 4-6, 2008 and is designed to respond to calls for dialogue between Catholics and Muslims.

The meeting, which ended today, was a result of the open letter “A Common Word” signed by 138 Islamic leaders in October 2007.  The letter points out similarities between Islam and Catholicism such as the belief in one God and being founded on “goodwill, not violence.”

Pope Benedict responded to the letter in November 2007 by stressing that the path to true dialogue lies in “effective respect for the dignity of every human person, on objective knowledge of the religion of the other, on the sharing of religious experience and, finally, on common commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance among the younger generation.”

Vatican analyst Sandro Magister sees Pope Benedict’s response, which differed from the original proposal of the 138 Muslim leaders, as “asking Islam to make the same journey that the Catholic Church made under pressure from the Enlightenment. Love of God and neighbor must be realized in the full acceptance of religious freedom”.

The seminar, entitled “Love of God, Love of Neighbor”, will be attended by 24 religious leaders and scholars from each religion. Other topics emphasized will include “Theological and Spiritual Foundations” and “Human Dignity and Mutual Respect”.  The seminar will conclude with a public session on November 6 and the participants will be granted an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

The Catholic participants in the March 4 and 5 meeting were: Cardinal Tauran, Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata and Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, respectively president, secretary and head officer for Islam of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue; Fr. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot M.C.C.J., president of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies; and Fr. Christian W. Troll S.J., visiting professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

On the Muslim side, the meeting was attended by Sheikh Murad, president of the Muslim Academic Trust, UK; Professor Aref Ali Nayed director of the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, Amman, Jordan; Dr. Ibrahim Kalin of the SETA Foundation, Ankara, Turkey; Imam Yahya Pallavicini, vice-president of CO.RE.IS. (Comunità Religiosa Islamica), Italy; and Sohail Nakhooda, editor- in-chief of “Islamica” magazine, Amman, Jordan.