Christians And Muslims Can Agree On Human Rights, Pope Tells ‘Common Word’ Forum

Vatican, Nov. 6, 2008 ( – Meeting on November 6 with participants in an unprecedented Catholic-Muslim encounter, Pope Benedict XVI (bionews) said that the keen public interest in the ‘Common Word’ initiative should be “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.”

The Holy Father met with the participants in the Catholic-Muslim meeting in a private audience at the conclusion of their 3-day session in Rome. The talks were the result of an invitation that the Pope extended to the 138 Islamic leaders who wrote to him and to other Christian leaders in October 2007, calling for greater dialogue between the two faiths. That dialogue, the Pope said at his Thursday audience, should help both sides to “know one another more deeply and to grow in esteem for our shared values.”

The Pope went on to say that he had been receiving regular reports of the daily meetings of the ‘Common Word’ conference, and 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.” He observed that the Muslim tradition matches the Christian belief that “love of God is inseparably bound to the love of all men and women.” Because of this similarity, he said, Christians and Muslims can work together in practical efforts to help those in need, “even though our anthropological visions and our theologies justify this in different ways.”

Christians and Muslims, despite their different beliefs, can find common ground in the understanding that human life and human dignity are gifts from God, recognized as sacred by both faiths, the Pope continued. From that understanding, the two faiths can both work toward a common defense of human rights. “My hope,” Pope Benedict said, “is that these fundamental human rights will be protected for all people everywhere.”

In a gentle challenge to the world’s Islamic leaders– repeating the challenge that he had made in his famous Regensburg address– the Pope said: “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.” He condemned violence, particularly violence done in the name of religion, and said that “God’s name can only be a name of peace and fraternity, justice and love.”

Pope Benedict closed his remarks by saying that honest dialogue, motivated by goodwill, can “overcome all misunderstandings and disagreements.” He expressed the hope that Christians and Muslims alike can “overcome past prejudices and correct the often distorted images of the other which even today can create difficulties in our relations.”