Religious leaders and scholars from the Islamic world will meet the Pope for an unprecedented audience in November it was announced yesterday after a historic summit between Vatican prelates and their Muslim counterparts.
For two days senior Catholics and Muslims prepared for the autumn encounter.
Participants confirmed that 24 representatives from each faith would take part in the inaugural seminar of a permanent Catholic-Muslim Forum.
The forum will meet every two years. The first will be in Rome, from November 4 until November 6. The third day will conclude with a papal reception.
Prof Aref Ali Nayed, from the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan, said: “Who attends the seminar will depend on their diaries. We will ensure, from our side, that many regions and sects are represented.”
He said the forum could serve as a “quick response unit, like a hotline” to smooth over crises between the faiths.
The location will alternate between the Vatican and a Muslim country.
Last year 138 Muslim scholars wrote to the Pope and other Christian leaders, pleading for dialogue between the two faiths to reduce tensions between Islam and the West. It was issued by Jordan’s Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought and was the second open letter from the institute to the Vatican.
The first was sent after the Pope’s 2006 Regensburg address, which left Muslims angry after he quoted a Byzantine emperor who spoke of the Prophet Muhammad’s “command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”. The Pope later said he had been misunderstood.