Confirmed: Islamic Leaders To Visit Vatican For Talks

Rome, Jan. 2, 2008 ( – The president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue has confirmed plans for a meeting between Vatican officials and Islamic leaders.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran told the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that a meeting with representatives of the “Common Word” initiative, launched in October 2007 by a group of 138 Islamic leaders, will take place in Rome this spring. The meeting, he observed, will be “in a certain sense historic.” He did not give a specific date for the meeting.

After the “Common Word” group issued its October call for talks with Christian leaders, Pope Benedict XVI (bionews) replied in November with an invitation for representatives of the group to come to Rome for in-depth discussions. Last week Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, the president of the Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan, revealed that he had accepted the papal invitation. The Jordanian leader indicated that he hoped to meet with the Pontiff in February or March 2008– a time period that seems to match Cardinal Tauran’s projected schedule for the meeting.

The sessions in Rome are expected to involve representatives of the Vatican Secretariat of State and the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. Vatican officials are determined to press their case for Islamic recognition of the right to religious freedom, especially for Christians living in predominantly Muslim countries.