Catholic-Muslim Summit Opens In Vatican City

Vatican City (AHN) – A three-day historic Catholic-Muslim summit will open Tuesday in Vatican City. To attend the talks are 48 religious leaders and scholars from the two faiths or 24 representatives each.

Leading the Catholic side is Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, while the Muslims will be headed by Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia.

According to Cardinal Tauran, the summit starts a new chapter in the long history of dialogue between the two major religions of the world. There are about one billion Catholics and 1.3 billion Muslims throughout the world.

Aside from seeking to establish a better inter-faith communication, the dialogue seeks to defuse future tensions between Catholics and Muslims, which soured after Pope Benedict’s speech in 2006 when he linked Muslims with past violent acts. The pontiff’s speech sparked outrage among Islam followers.

It also led Muslim scholars to seek a theological dialogue with the Pope, called the Common Word. The appeal has over 250 signatories.

Aside from the papal speech, Muslim leaders pointed to the publication of offending cartoons in a Danish daily in 2005 depicting prophet Mohammad, as another reason behind the growing gap between the two faiths.

On Tuesday the main topic will be God’s love, while neighbor’s love will be discussed Wednesday. On Thursday the delegates will meet Pope Benedict.

Last week the pope announced he will go on a pilgrimage to Cameroon and Angola in March 2009. The two African countries, like a growing number of Asian nations where Muslims are numerous, also have an expanding Catholic population.