FACTBOX: Catholic-Muslim Relations

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Relations between Catholics and Muslims have improved markedly in recent decades after centuries marked by memories of the Crusades and Ottoman military campaigns in eastern Europe.

Here are some of the major step in that process:

1965: The Second Vatican Council said the Catholic Church regarded Muslims “with esteem” and urged both faiths “to forget the past and work sincerely for mutual understanding.”

1968: Vatican begins sending Ramadan greetings to Muslims.

1989: Vatican begins occasional meetings with World Islamic Call Society, major Muslim mission organization based in Libya.

1994: Tehran’s department for interreligious dialogue meets with its Vatican counterpart.

1995: Catholic-Muslim Liaison Committee begins discussions on current issues between the Vatican and four large Muslim organizations.

1998: Vatican and al-Azhar University in Cairo agree to hold annual meetings to discuss topical issues from both perspectives.

2001: John Paul II becomes first pope to visit a mosque, the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

2002: Vatican and World Islamic Call Society in Libya agree on annual meetings.

2006: Pope Benedict’s Regensburg lecture on September 12 suggests Islam is violent and unreasonable. Protests, sometimes bloody, break out in the Muslim world and the pontiff is forced to apologize for any misunderstanding. A group of 38 Muslim intellectuals write him to correct his views on Islam.

On November 30, Pope Benedict visits the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and prays alongside the city’s grand mufti.

2007: Having no response from the Vatican, the 38 scholars gather 138 Muslim experts in the “Common Word” appeal for all Christian churches to join a dialogue with them about common values of both faiths to love God and neighbor.

2008: “Common Word” experts meet Vatican officials at first Catholic-Muslim Forum featuring wide-ranging theological discussions.


April 27: Vatican and Arab League sign agreement to promote dialogue, justice and peace.

May 9: Pope Benedict visits the King Hussein Mosque in Amman and urges further dialogue between Catholics and Muslims in a speech well received in the Muslim world, except for some Islamists who say it cannot undo the damage of Regensburg.

May 12: Pope Benedict visits Jerusalem’s Grand Mufti Muhammad Ahmad Hussein at the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina, and urges Muslim leaders to continue interfaith dialogue.