Landmark Catholic-Muslim Meeting Opens In Rome

In a historic meeting of the world’s two largest faiths, Vatican and Islamic scholars opened the first Catholic-Muslim forum in a bid to improve relations.

The three-day meeting in Rome stems from Pope Benedict’s 2006 speech implying that Islam was violent and irrational.

In response, 138 invited Christian churches to a new dialogue to foster mutual respect through a better understanding of each other’s beliefs.

Muslim scholars responded with “A Common Word”, a manifesto that argues that both faiths share the core principles of love of God and neighbor. The meeting will include an audience with Pope Benedict.

Two previous gatherings with Christians have been held with U.S. Protestants in July and Anglicans last month.

“It was a very cordial atmosphere” today, one delegate told Reuters, asking not to be named because the meeting was closed. The forum consists of 29 scholars and clerics from each faith.

The BBC also is covering the conclave.

Here’s background, along with a Vatican Radio interview with the head of inter-religious dialogue.

Scholar Tariq Ramadan, president of the European Muslim NetworkUK Guardian “Why I’m going to meet the Pope.”

“It is clear that the time has come to open debate on the common theological underpinnings and the shared foundations of the two religions,” he writes. “Our task is not to create a new religious alliance against the ‘secularized’ and ‘immoral’ world order, but to make a constructive contribution to the debate, to prevent the logic of economics and war from destroying what remains of our common humanity.”

(Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, right, talks with Mustafa Ceric, head of the Bosnia Islamic Community. Photo by Osservatore Romano via AP.)