Historic Catholic-Muslim Dialogue Gets Underway At The Vatican

Vatican City, Nov 4, 2008 / 11:08 am (CNA) - Catholic-Muslim dialogue took a step forward today as representatives from the two different religions met at the Vatican. The two-day meeting will focus on the need for respecting human dignity, religious freedom and the theological aspects of “Love of God and Neighbor.”

On October 13, 2007, 138 Muslims leaders sent an open letter to numerous Christian churches requesting that channels of dialogue be established between the two faiths. The Muslim scholars and religious leaders proposed that the “Love of God and Neighbor” be the theme for the discussions since these are beliefs held in common by both religions.

Pope Benedict XVI responded to the request for dialogue on November 19, 2007 saying that while the two faiths do hold these tenets in common, Christianity has developed an understanding of the paramount importance of human dignity and religious freedom. Any discussion about the love of God and neighbor must lead to the acceptance of religious freedom and the defense of human dignity.

The first seminar organized by the Catholic-Muslim Forum was held this morning at the Vatican and the meeting will culminate with a meeting with Pope Benedict on November 6.

According to a press release from the Holy See Press Office, the theme of the Seminar – “Love of God, Love of Neighbor” – will be tackled from two main standpoints: “theological and spiritual fundamentals” and “the dignity of the human person and mutual respect.” The Catholic and Muslim sides will both deliver reports on each of these sub-themes, and their statements will serve as a launching pad for the subsequent debates. Each of the two sides in the meeting will be composed of 29 people, including experts, religious authorities and advisers.

Following the address by the Holy Father on Thursday, a public session of the forum will be held at 4:30 p.m. at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Catholic and Muslim representatives will present a joint declaration approved during the course of meeting and answer any questions about the forum that are posed by the audience.