Pope In Call For Wider Christian-Muslim Dialogue

Developments in Christian-Muslim talks should be shared with the faithful, and not restricted to the experts, Pope Benedict has said.

Earlier this week Benedict XVI received participants in the First Seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum. The event has been organised by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and by the 138 Muslim representatives who, on October 13, 2007, sent an open letter to the Pope and to other heads of Christian Churches and ecclesial Communities.

In his English-language remarks to them, the Pope noted that the open letter “has received numerous responses, and has given rise to dialogue, specific initiatives and meetings, aimed at helping us to know one another more deeply and to grow in esteem for our shared values. The great interest which the present seminar has awakened is an incentive for us to ensure that the reflections and the positive developments which emerge from Muslim-Christian dialogue are not limited to a small group of experts and scholars, but are passed on as a precious legacy to be placed at the service of all, to bear fruit in the way we live each day”.

According to the Vatican Information Service, the Holy Father pointed out that the theme chosen for the meeting, “Love of God, Love of Neighbour: The Dignity of the Human Person and Mutual Respect”, highlights “even more clearly the theological and spiritual foundations of a central teaching of our respective religions. … Our calling and mission is to share freely with others the love which God lavishes upon us without any merit of our own”.

“I was pleased to learn that you were able at this meeting to adopt a common position on the need to worship God totally and to love our fellow men and women disinterestedly, especially those in distress and need. God calls us to work together on behalf of the victims of disease, hunger, poverty, injustice and violence.

“For Christians, the love of God is inseparably bound to the love … of all men and women, without distinction of race and culture. … The Muslim tradition is also quite clear in encouraging practical commitment in serving the most needy. … We should thus work together in promoting genuine respect for the dignity of the human person and fundamental human rights, even though our anthropological visions and our theologies justify this in different ways. There is a great and vast field in which we can act together in defending and promoting the moral values which are part of our common heritage”.

The Pope continued: “Only by starting with the recognition of the centrality of the person and the dignity of each human being, respecting and defending life which is the gift of God, and is thus sacred for Christians and for Muslims alike – only on the basis of this recognition, can we find a common ground for building a more fraternal world, a world in which confrontations and differences are peacefully settled, and the devastating power of ideologies is neutralised.

“My hope is that these fundamental human rights will be protected for all people everywhere. Political and religious leaders have the duty of ensuring the free exercise of these rights in full respect for each individual’s freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. The discrimination and violence which even today religious people experience throughout the world, and the often violent persecutions to which they are subject, represent unacceptable and unjustifiable acts, all the more grave and deplorable when they are carried out in the name of God.

“God’s name can only be a name of peace and fraternity, justice and love. We are challenged to demonstrate, by our words and above all by our deeds, that the message of our religions is unfailingly a message of harmony and mutual understanding. It is essential that we do so, lest we weaken the credibility and the effectiveness not only of our dialogue, but also of our religions themselves”.

“Let us unite our efforts, animated by good will, in order to overcome all misunderstanding and disagreements”, Pope Benedict concluded. “Let us resolve to overcome past prejudices and to correct the often distorted images of the other which even today can create difficulties in our relations; let us work with one another to educate all people, especially the young, to build a common future”.